NBA Playoffs 2012: Al Horford Is X-Factor in Hawks vs. Celtics Series

Mike MoraitisAnalyst IMay 10, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - MAY 08:  Forward Al Horford #15 of the Atlanta Hawks dribbles during Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the NBA Playoffs against the Boston Celtics at Philips Arena on May 8, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. 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 Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)
Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks got a much-needed boost from their big man, Al Horford, in their Game 5 win over the Boston Celtics. Clearly he will be a vital piece for the Hawks moving forward in this series.

Horford's energy single-handedly propelled the Hawks to a win and saved the season in the process. The Hawks center contributed with 19 points and 11 rebounds in the must-win situation.

After missing the majority of the season, Horford has finally returned to give Atlanta a huge boost on both sides of the ball.

In his first game, it was clear Horford didn't have his legs under him yet. But in his second game of this series, Horford's game was vastly improved and it showed.

What Horford gives the Hawks is a defensive presence all over the floor and especially in the paint.

On the offensive end, Horford gives Atlanta some strength down low. Although he doesn't have much of a low-post game, the Hawks center is very capable of finishing and can make the most out of solid passing by his teammates.

There's no doubt that the anchor of the Hawks defense is back and better than ever. Had Atlanta been lucky enough to have Horford this entire series, things might've been much different.

It could end up being too little, too late in this case, but if Horford can continue to play the way he did in Game 5, the Hawks could climb back into this series and give the Celtics a run for their money.