MIAMI (AP) — Al Horford is back. Marcus Smart plans to join him.
The Boston Celtics are closer for the Eastern Conference Finals. Horford’s stint in the NBA’s health and safety protocols ended Thursday, hours before the tip of Game 2 of the East title series against the Miami Heat.
Horford missed Game 1 because of those coronavirus-related protocols, and Smart missed the series opener with a metatarsal sprain. But Smart completed a shootaround practice Thursday morning and his availability for Game 2 will officially be determined by what he does in a pre-game practice session.
Derrick White, who started Tuesday’s 118-107 loss of Boston in Game 1 to Miami and played 29 minutes, will not play in Game 2. He left Miami early due to the upcoming birth of a child.
“They don’t want to say it’s a difficult situation. We knew he was expecting a baby soon,” said Celtics coach Ime Udoka. “Things happen in life and we always support our boys.”
Smart is the league’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year. The foot injury occurred in Game 7 of the East semifinals against Milwaukee on Sunday. He tried to get ready in time to play Game 1 on Tuesday, to no avail.
“He looked good,” Celtics guard Grant Williams said after the team’s shootaround practice Thursday morning.
Horford was on the record for the third time this season. He missed the Celtics’ regular season opener, missed five more games in December and was ruled out of Game 1 just hours before the tip.
“We weren’t prepared to play without Al,” said Boston center Daniel Theis.
Also on Thursday, the Celtics had their coach back. Udoka missed a scheduled media session on Wednesday with an illness the team described as a non-COVID illness, but said he was ready to go on Thursday.
Miami will be without Kyle Lowry for the eighth time in their last 10 playoff games as he continues to recover from a hamstring strain. The Heat listed backcourt starters Gabe Vincent – Lowry’s backup – and Max Strus as questionable for Game 2 with hamstring problems of their own, but both planned to play.
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