Celtics rules intelligently, Horford leaves for match 1 against the heat Sports news

Author: TIM REYNOLDS, AP Basketball Writer

MIAMI (AP) – Boston had two starters in the 1st game of the Eastern Conference final on Tuesday night, with Al Horford entering the NBA’s health and safety protocols and Marcus Smart unable to play for a twist in the middle of the foot.

The Celtics announced these updates about three hours before the series opened against the Miami Heat. Derrick White was added to the starting lineup instead of Smart, and Grant Williams replaced Horford.

Boston was already preparing for Smart – the acting defensive player of the year – to be eliminated after injuring his leg in Sunday in the 7th match of the East Boston semifinal over Milwaukee. But the loss of Horford was a surprise blow to the Celtics and added to the team’s dilemma.

Celtics coach Ime Udoka said he first found out about Horford’s condition on Tuesday around 5:00 p.m., about 3.5 hours before the tip. He wouldn’t say if Horford had a positive test.

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“As always, we do not comment on the condition of our boys,” Udoka said. “She feels good. Let’s get out of here. Wait for the results and tests and future tests.”

Horford averaged 13.0 points and the best team 10.4 rebounds in the Celtics’ seven-match victory over Milwaukee, thus starting all these matches. This is the beginning of Hordord’s third performance in protocols this season; he missed time in the preparation season and at the start of the Boston season, then missed another five games in December.

Players with a positive test usually took at least five days to escape the protocol. That would call into question Hordord’s availability for Game 2 in Miami on Thursday – and possibly longer. The teams will play every other day in this series; The Celtics will host the 3rd and 4th games on Saturday and Monday.

But Udoka said that on Tuesday it is not certain that Horford will miss Game 2, although he noted that there are “different protocols and tests that have to pass.”

“I feel like this is the world we have lived in for a long time and certainly this year,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. “Every team has a lot of experience to deal with it. Normal preparation: Expect the unexpected. We just have to focus on getting our best version tonight. It’s a playoff. You’ll get great competition.”

Smart played six of seven matches against Milwaukee. He missed the second match due to a quad bike injury. Then came a foot problem, which caused the Celtics to initially cite Smart as controversial in the injury report – although Udoka warned after Tuesday’s team shootout this morning that he was still struggling with considerable pain.

“The pain was too great,” Udoka said, adding that Smart also had swelling problems. Smart will continue treatment and will be reviewed on Wednesday, Udoka said.

The Celtics entered Tuesday 5: 8 without Horford this season and 5: 7 without Smart.

“Unfortunately, at the beginning of the season, we trained with it a lot because of COVID injuries and situations,” Udoka said.

According to FanDuel Sportsbook, Miami was a 1 1/2 point favorite in Match 1 on Monday and then a 2 1/2 point favorite on Tuesday morning. Once the Celtics announced Smart and Horford, Heat became a bigger favorite – 4 1/2 points.

Miami is still missing one starter: The Heat has already eliminated quarterly Kyle Lowry from Game 1 for a thigh tendon injury. Lowry has now missed seven of Miami’s last nine games because of the problem.

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