ORLANDO, FL - APRIL 19: Al Horford #15 of the Atlanta Hawks drives to the baskest as Brandon Bass #30 of the Orlando Magic defends during Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2011 NBA Playoffs on April 19, 2011 at the Amway Arena in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
It has been discussed at length on this very site time and time again. The Horford treatment has to stop and Larry Drew and the Atlanta Hawks need to stop thinking of Al Horford simply as a "big" and start thinking of him as the key ingredient in winning or losing.
SB Nation's Tom Ziller weighs in on the point in this morning's commentary.
Horford picked up his second foul just a shade over two minutes into the game. Drew unsurprisingly pulled him ... for the entire first half! That's right: Al Horford, the most valuable Hawk, played two minutes in the first half because Larry Drew didn't want him to be unavailable later on due to an ejection he was four fouls away from.
It gets worse
Horford played every second of the second half, and finished with ... two fouls. That's right -- a player who sat for 22 minutes in the first half due to foul trouble never actually sniffed foul trouble. He could have had five fouls in the first two minutes and not fouled out.
We should be past this now. The playoffs are a time when you let everything hang out. This is when you look at your two time All-Star power forward / center and trust that he will make the correct decisions on the court. Even while struggling without Horford, the game was still in the balance late.
Drew talked about his thought process with Horford to Michael Cunningham after the game.
"When he came out, I told him to be prepared to go back in the second quarter," Drew said. "My thought process behind that was if we were struggling, I was going to play him. But we actually played very well in that second quarter and it wasn’t until late in the second quarter when we hit the bump in the road. At that point I didn’t want to put him in and jeopardize him getting his third foul with less than three minutes to go."
As I pointed out in the recap. I understand what coach Drew was trying to do but he gambled and lost. At this point in the season, there is no room for gambling. He wouldn't entertain the thought of going that route with Joe Johnson or Josh Smith. It is time that Horford receives that same respect and confidence no matter the opponent. Especially against a team like Orlando when every big body and every bullet in the gun is needed. It has to stop or else, the Hawks are going to continue to suffer for it.