Al Horford had done so much to put himself in this position.

Four months of rehabilitation to recover from a torn pectoral muscle suffered two weeks into the regular season. Forty-one minutes in Game 5 — his second appearance since returning from the injury — to help the Hawks stave off elimination. Eleven brilliant minutes in the fourth quarter of last night's Game 6 to bring them back.

All of it led to one moment: the Atlanta Hawks center at the free-throw line, with two shots to tie the Celtics with 2.3 seconds remaining. Horford's first shot caught too much iron and rattled out. He made the second, but that was inconsequential. Two free throws by Paul Pierce sealed the Celtics' 83-80 win and sent the Hawks packing.