MIAMI -- The Boston Celtics announced Thursday afternoon that Al Horford would be available to play in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat.
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Horford, who abruptly went into the NBA's health and safety protocols a couple of hours before Boston's 118-107 Game 1 loss on Tuesday, was upgraded to doubtful Wednesday evening and then was rapidly upgraded from questionable to available in the span of about 90 minutes Thursday.
For a player to return to game action after testing positive for COVID-19, there had been two paths to a return: either recording two consecutive negative PCR tests at least 24 hours apart, or return two consecutive PCR tests sampled at least 24 hours apart with cycle threshold values greater than 30 beginning no sooner than Day 4 and 5 after initially testing positive.
However, in a memo dated April 30 and obtained by ESPN, the league added a third game-day testing mechanism to potentially allow for players to return the day of a game.
In that circumstance, a player could return to team activities if he returns two consecutive "not detected" results from PCR tests collected on game day.
If either PCR test returns a positive or inconclusive test result, this protocol shall not apply, and the player must remain in isolation.
Marcus Smart, who missed Game 1 because of a midfoot sprain that he suffered in Game 7 against the Milwaukee Bucks, remains probable to play Thursday night.
"He's better but still has to test it out pregame," Celtics coach Ime Udoka said after the team's shootaround Thursday morning. "But he's probable for tonight. When he goes before the game, we'll know from there, but he looked better in shootaround today and overall we expect him to play."
The Celtics also announced that Derrick White would miss Game 2 for personal reasons, as he and his wife are expecting a child.
"Derrick is having a baby," Udoka said. "It came sooner than expected. But we support our guys always in that situation. He had to rush home today."
White started Game 1 in place of Smart and finished with three points and four assists in 29 minutes. He is expected to be back with the team for Game 3 on Saturday night when the series shifts back to Boston.
The Boston Celtics will be looking to even the series with the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals before the series shifts to Beantown for Game 3. After a tough loss in Game 1 where the Heat really took control in the third quarter, the Celtics will be looking to correct their mistakes in that one and earn a much-needed split in Miami.
Thursday’s game will begin at 8:30 p.m. EDT on ESPN from FTX Arena in South Florida.
Before the game tips off, make your picks on the top prop bets for the Celtics-Heat showdown at FTX Arena.
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Celtics upgrade Al Horford to questionable for Game 2 vs. Heat originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Could the Celtics have Al Horford back in the lineup for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat on Thursday night?
The C's announced Thursday afternoon that they have upgraded Horford's status from doubtful to questionable. Horford missed the series opener because he was in the NBA's Health and Safety Protocols. His absence was felt in Boston's 118-107 loss at FTX Arena.
Here's another Horford update from ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski:
What must happen for Horford to be cleared for action? Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports provided the details:
Getting Horford back would be huge for the Celtics at both ends of the floor. Not only does he provided valuable scoring as an outside shooter, his defense is fantastic as well. In fact, Horford is an ideal defender for versatile Heat center Bam Adebayo.
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In other lineup news, the Celtics have listed Marcus Smart as probable to play in Game 2 after he missed Game 1 with a right midfoot sprain.
The team also announced Thursday that veteran guard Derrick White will miss Game 2 due to personal reasons. White left the team to be with his wife because they are expecting the birth of their first child soon.
The Boston Celtics lost Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals to the Miami Heat in large part because they were without two key starters: Marcus Smart and Al Horford. They'll be getting at least one of those guys back for Game 2 on Thursday night, as Horford is available to play, the team announced. He missed Game 1 after being placed in the league's health and safety protocols. Getting Horford back will obviously be a big boost for Boston.
The Celtics will be without guard Derrick White for Game 2, as he is away from the team to be there as his wife gives birth to their child. Smart, who is dealing with a mid-foot sprain, has been listed as probable for Game 2. His final status will likely be determined shortly before tip time.
Smart is super important to the Celtics, as he is the glue that helps keep Boston's defense together, and though he doesn't put up monster numbers on offense, his passing is a critical component of their attack on that end of the floor. He helps keep the ball moving if Boston gets too stagnant, and does a great job of putting his teammates in a position to get a good look. His 39.4 percent mark from 3-point range was also an additional weapon the Celtics used against the Bucks.
In Game 6 against Milwaukee, Smart put up 21 points, seven rebounds and five assists, while being a pest defensively to help extend the series for the Celtics. He followed that up with an 11-point, 10-assist, seven-rebound performance in Game 7, and finished the game a plus-18.
Game 2 will be crucial for Boston, as they don't want to fall behind 0-2 in the series, so the more players they have available, the better.