It has been a lingering question around the Celtics for more than a month, going back to when it was possible that Boston would face the Raptors in the first round of the NBA playoffs. Because Toronto has more restrictive protocols in place for athletes, the vaccination status of Celtics players became a topic of concern.
While it was reported that both star wing Jaylen Brown and big man Al Horford were unvaccinated, at least one of those—Horford—was said to have gotten the shot ahead of the postseason. But this week, when Horford missed Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Heat, speculation among Twitter sleuths emerged suggesting that, in fact, Horford remained unvaccinated. Otherwise, the thinking went, he would not have been tested.
But Heavy.com’s Steve Bulpett, a longtime Celtics beat reporter, noted on Thursday that sources told him Horford is, in fact vaccinated.
The reason Horford was tested for COVID-19, then? Because he had some level of contact with a media member who later tested positive.
Here’s how Bulpett put it: “With vaccinated players not subject to regular COVID testing, some on social media and elsewhere have alleged (or presumed) that Horford was checked because he had yet to get the shot(s). But sources close to the situation insisted to Heavy.com that Horford has indeed been administered the vaccine and that he was tested as a close contact of those who contracted the virus.”
Horford Has Slowed as Playoff Progressed
The Celtics lost Game 1 of the series against Miami without Horford, and with Marcus Smart also out with an injury. But they bounced back with a rout in Game 2, gaining homecourt advantage in the series and leaving them three wins from the Finals.
Horford might have actually benefitted from the day off. In his first eight playoff games this postseason, Horford averaged 15.9 points and 9.4 rebounds, with 56.5% shooting and 53.5% from the 3-point line. But he had slowed from there, averaging 5.3 points, shooting 35.0% from the field and missing all eight 3-point attempts in his next three games.
He did not have a huge scoring game in Game 2, but he scored 10 points and went 4-for-4 from the field for the Celtics, who were plus-16 when he was on the floor.
Celtics Rarely Lose Twice
The win Thursday ran the Celtics’ record to 9-4 in the postseason, tied for second in the NBA playoffs this year. It was the fourth time Boston followed a loss with a win in the playoffs, typical for a team that has had just one two-game losing streak going back to late January.
The Celtics have delivered convincing wins in response to each of their four playoff losses, beating Milwaukee by 23 points in Game 2 of the East semis, by eight in Game 4 and by 13 in Game 6. The win in Game 2 against the Heat came by 25 points.
As star forward Jayson Tatum said, “Since I’ve been in the NBA, the difference between the years we’ve been really good and not so good is just how you respond. You’re not going to win every game you play but the sign of a good team is how you respond after losses, especially tough ones. It just kind of shows the character of the group and we’ve done a really good job most of the year responding after tough losses and situations.”