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Al Horford continues string of solid defensive performances

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Al Horford's defense against DeMarcus Cousins Tuesday night was key to Atlanta's victory. The performance just continues a string of strong efforts by Horford to start the season.

Kelley L Cox - USA TODAY SPORTS

Al Horford logged another double-double Tuesday night with 27 points and 10 rebounds but his biggest contribution may have came at the other end of the floor.

Coming into the game, we highlighted that slowing down Cousins, who was averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds, would be key for a Hawks win. He got off to a good start, making three of his first four attempts in the first quarter, but then went scoreless until the fourth. Cousins finished with 11 points and six rebounds on 5-for-12 shooting before heading to the bench for good due to foul trouble. Following the game, Horford credited his teammates for helping him on Cousins.

"My teammates did a great job of disrupting him and were digging real well and keeping him off balance," Horford said. "Any given night he can be the best big man in the league. Mentally, I feel he's stronger this season."

When Cousins was asked about Horford this was his reply:

"Next question."

Cousins was clearly agitated and a lot of it probably stemmed from an earlier incident with rookie Dennis Schröder.

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(H/T to Sactown Royalty for the gif)

Tuesday night's performance for Horford just continues a string of good defensive showings this season. In the last three games, Horford has been matched against Jonas Valanciunas, Pau Gasol and then Cousins.

Valanciunas finished with just four points and four rebounds against Horford before getting pulled early as Toronto coach Dwane Casey tried to match Atlanta's speed by going small. Amir Johnson fared no better against Horford who finished with 22 points and 16 rebounds in an Atlanta win.

Next up was Gasol, who had a good performance with 16 points and 13 rebounds, but Horford was able to limit him to just 5-for-18 shooting. Gasol had the last laugh with the game-winning free throws at the end but Horford certainly wasn't shy, as he finished with 12 points and another mammoth night on the boards with 16 rebounds.

Horford's defensive ability has often been overlooked thanks to playing in the shadow of Josh Smith. He's been more than solid through the first four games at the center position. Next up for Horford and Hawks? Seven footer JaVale McGee and the Denver Nuggets.