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Al Horford Is In Championship Mode

This quote after Game 3 of the Atlanta Hawks-Boston Celtics series says all you need to know about Al Horford.

"When guys are coming at you, thinking you're going to back down, I have to let them know I'm not going to," Horford said. "That's not how I roll."

That's rookie Al Horford. He's the one who got in Paul Pierce's head and prompted the Celtic to flash a gang sign, he's the one trying to pump up the crowd after Atlanta's Zaza Pachulia got in Kevin Garnett's face, and he's the one pulling out the tape before Game 3 of Muhammad Ali's win over George Foreman in 1974 ("Horford bombaye!"). The same Game 3 when Horford had an epic 17-14 and six assists. With Atlanta pulling even now in the series for Game 5 tonight in Boston, Horford is in the spotlight. Kevin Durant may win Rookie of The Year, but Horford is the real winner.

(By the way, how has the, "Bombaye!" chant not caught on? It means, "Kill him!" How awesome is that? Try it with me, "Tebow bombaye! Tebow bombaye! Tebow bombaye!" That was awesome, right?)

Horford isn't the only Hawk trying to destroy the Mass-holes. But through four playoff games, Horford is above his season averages. He is averaging 12.5 points and 11.5 boards per game. In Game 4, he only scored four points on 1-6 shooting, but he had 13 rebounds, 10 on the defensive end. Along with Josh Smith, Horford has clogged the paint, keeping Garnett away from the rim. Speaking of, here's how delusional Celtic fans are about all of this. From Bill Simmons chat Tuesday.

KG (Boston, Mass): Shhh! I'm still the same guy that has never won anything and shrinks away from big moments. Don't tell anyone.

Bill Simmons: (12:41 PM ET ) Here's the thing, KG - nobody on Atlanta can defend you near the basket. You could score 40 a game in this series if you wanted. In fact, that's precisely what Duncan would have done last night. At some point in your career (and you've only done it once, in Game 7 of the Kings series in 2004), you need to screw the "I'm unselfish" thing, get your ass in the low post and win the game for your team. That's what great players do - they win games that their teams probably wouldn't win unless they were on the team.

Simmons is a NBA guy, but he's wrong here. Garnett is getting harassed constantly (did he miss the Celtics last possession in the first half?) and the Hawks are playing to Horford's strength, allowing him to sink to the hoop and create traffic. Smith has been absolutely fantastic keeping with Garnett and when Horford does get out of position (Pierce's driving layup near the end of Game 4), Smith created problems (Pierce lost control and turned the ball over).

I'm horribly biased here (I love Horford and I hate everything associated with Boston, minus Paul Revere, Sam Adams and his beer), but what Horford has done in his first playoff experience has been incredible. He is not playing like a young player. Bumping up his stat line only proves that Horford has the extra gear winners have (Tim Duncan, Michael Jordan) and losers don't (Garnett, Chris Webber).

Horford is in Championship Mode.