MIAMI (AP) — Al Horford is back. Marcus Smart is planning to join him.
The Boston Celtics are closer to whole for the Eastern Conference finals. Horford’s stay in the NBA’s health and safety protocols ended Thursday, a few hours before tipoff of Game 2 of the East title series against the Miami Heat.
Horford missed Game 1 because of those protocols, related to the coronavirus, and Smart missed the series opener because of a mid-foot sprain. But Smart went through a shootaround practice Thursday morning, and his availability for Game 2 will be officially determined based on what he does in a pregame workout.
Derrick White, who started and played 29 minutes in Boston’s 118-107 loss in Game 1 to Miami on Tuesday, will not play in Game 2. He left Miami early because of the looming birth of a child.
“You don’t want to say it’s a tough situation. We knew he was expecting a baby soon,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “Things happen in life and we always support our guys.”
Smart is the league’s reigning defensive player of the year. The foot injury happened 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 Thursday morning shootaround practice.
Horford was in the protocols for the third time this season. He missed the Celtics’ regular-season opener, then missed five more games in December, and was ruled out of Game 1 just a couple of hours before tipoff.
“We weren’t prepared to be playing without Al,” Boston center Daniel Theis said.
Also Thursday, the Celtics had their coach back. Udoka missed a scheduled media session Wednesday with what the team described as a non-COVID illness but said he was good to go on Thursday.
Miami will be without Kyle Lowry for the eighth time in its last 10 playoff games while he continues recovering from a hamstring strain. The Heat listed backcourt starters Gabe Vincent — Lowry’s replacement — and Max Strus as questionable for Game 2 with hamstring issues of their own, but both were planning to play.
Story by Tim Reynolds