Celtics Make ‘Stunning’ Announcement Regarding 2 Starters for Game 1 vs. Heat

Celtics rule out Marcus Smart & Al Horford for Game 1 vs. Heat

Getty Boston Celtics teammates and head coach Ime Udoka huddle around veteran Al Horford in the final minutes of Game Four of the Eastern Conference First Round Playoffs.

Even after Ime Udoka confirmed that Robert Williams III would be able to play against the Miami Heat in the 2022 Eastern Conference Finals without any restrictions, many were worried that Marcus Smart would be held out of Game 1 because of a reported foot injury. After hours of waiting, the Boston Celtics released their injury report on May 17, 2022. Not only is it not what Celtics fans want to hear, but it’s even worse than they could have imagined.

The Celtics Injury Report for Game 1 of the conference finals revealed that Smart will be out with a right mid-foot sprain, but it also revealed that Al Horford will also be out because he has entered the NBA’s Health and Safety Protocols.

With the information revealed earlier about Smart’s injury, him missing Game 1 isn’t too big of a surprise. By contrast, Horford missing Game 1 because of COVID-19 protocols comes out of nowhere because there had been no prior reports about him contracting the virus.

As Joe Vardon of The Athletic highlighted, missing both Horford and Smart is a “stunning blow” to the Celtics’ starting five and put Boston in a tough uphill battle to fight against the Heat in the series opener.

Al Horford Might Miss Game 2 As Well

Not too long after it was confirmed that Horford will miss Game 1, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN later reported that the Celtics anticipate that he will also be out for Game 2 of the conference finals.

This is also the third time that Horford has entered COVID-19 protocols since the pre-season and the first time he’s entered the protocols since December 17, 2021. Horford returned to play for the Celtics on December 27, 2021.

So now the Celtics are likely to go up against Miami with Grant Williams, Robert Williams, Daniel Theis, and Luke Kornet as their only available centers in Games 1 and 2 until further notice. Minus Kornet, that makes up most of who the Celtics had to combat Miami in the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals.

Both Grant Williams and Robert Williams III have played bigger roles in the Celtics rotation now compared to two years ago. Games 1 and 2 of the 2022 Eastern Conference Finals will serve as a good test to see how much they’ve improved since 2020.

Marcus Smart is Not Expected to be Out Long

While Smart’s Game 1 status was iffy until the Celtics released their injury report, the one comfort for Celtics fans is that his injury is not considered too serious.

Wojnarowski reported on May 16, 2022, that Smart underwent an MRI to see if his foot had suffered serious damage. The imaging came back clean, meaning he’ll most likely be day-to-day.

No one knows for sure, but at the very least, it sounds like Smart won’t be out for too long.

The Celtics have shown that they can persevere as a team without Smart in these playoffs. After Smart had to miss Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Milwaukee Bucks because of a right quad injury, the Celtics managed to win anyway, defeating the Bucks 109-86.

Boston has proven they can win without Smart. Now they’re going to take on the even harder task of beating the East’s No. 1 seed without Smart or Horford.

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