On Friday night the Atlanta Hawks had just a couple seconds left on the clock in overtime of a tied game with the Washington Wizards. With the ball, Mike Budenholzer called a designed inbounds play with Pero Antic being the man to make the pass. He found Al Horford near the basket for the buzzer-beater, giving the Hawks a 101-99 victory.
In addition to hitting the game-winner, Horford also had himself a heck of a night. In 41 minutes on the floor, the Hawks big man put up 34 points, 15 rebounds, two assists and two blocks while hitting an efficient 15 of his 23 attempts from the field. He looked every bit like the leader of this new-look Atlanta team, as many people supposed he would be coming into the year.
Through November, Horford had been solid, but he hadn’t been lighting it up in quite the manner that many people thought he would playing alongside Paul Millsap and without Josh Smith on the roster anymore. In 17 games in November, Horford was putting up 17.4 points, 8.2 points, 2.4 assists, 0.8 steals and 1.7 blocks in 32.6 minutes per game.
December has already been a big month for Horford, though. Through five games, including Friday’s matchup, Horford is averaging 20.4 points, 10 boards, 2.6 assists, 1.2 steals and 0.6 blocks in 34.8 minutes per game. Despite an off night against the Oklahoma City Thunder earlier this week, Horford has helped the Hawks to a solid start to the month.
Though you might think that Horford’s spike in numbers is due to more efficient play, it’s more based on the fact that the Hawks are looking his way more often. While Horford was taking just 13.7 shot attempts per game and had a usage rate of 24.2 percent in November, that has increased to 17 attempts per game and a usage rate of 25.8 percent thus far in December.
While there are several pieces like Millsap and Jeff Teague that definitely need to get their looks in Atlanta, they would be wise to continue to remember that this is Horford’s team. On both ends of the floor, this team is better when they are relying on Horford. It’s a small sample-size, but the team’s play, as well as Horford’s, in December is evidence of that.