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Hawks giving Celtics fits

It never gets tiring watching Al Horford play basketball.

And these day, it’s pretty exciting to watch him and the Atlanta Hawks on the court. The team that most everyone thought would be swept by the Boston Celtics in this first round series upset the Green Machine on Monday, amazingly sending the series back north knotted 2-2.

The Hawks played with a passion last night (and in their upset win on Saturday) that hasn’t been seen all season. And right in the mix was Horford, the 6-foot-10-inch, 245-pound center who turns 22 in early June and is in the running for Rookie of the Year.

One of my favorite moments of the game came when Horford took a hard foul from Boston’s Glen Davis, snapped to his feet on the endline, crouched and struck a pose to flex his muscled arms. Physical play? Horford goes unfazed. The moment was a combination of youthful exuberance, cockiness and athletic prowess that makes Horford such a stud.

Horford even tried to play peacemaker when reserve center Zaza Pachulia and Celtics All-Star Kevin Garnett tangled in the second quarter, providing a game-stopping fracas that resulted in four technical fouls. But the near-brawl also served notice that the Hawks, despite their embarrassing performance in the opening two games of the series, were now to be taken seriously as NBA Commissioner David Stern looked on from his courtside seat. --Matt Hennie

Matt Hennie writes the Gaytlsports blog in Atlanta.