Celtics

Marcus Smart, Al Horford will both miss Game 1 of Eastern Conference finals

The Celtics were dealt a devastating blow on Tuesday.

Marcus Smart Al Horford
Marcus Smart and Al Horford will both miss Game 1 against the Heat. Jim Davis/Globe Staff

The Celtics knew they might be without Marcus Smart for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Heat, but on Tuesday they received devastating news: They also will be without Al Horford.

Horford, who entered health and safety protocols for the third time this season, was a late and unexpected scratch. The Celtics found out that he was unavailable roughly two hours before Ime Udoka sat down to speak to the media at 7 p.m.

“As always, we don’t comment on our status of our guys,” Udoka said. “He’s feeling fine, and we’ll go from there, wait to see results and tests and future tests.”

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Udoka added that he is “unsure” whether Horford will miss Game 2, although Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported that the Celtics are prepared to miss Horford for the first two games.

“It’s more of a medical question,” Udoka said. “But there are different protocols and tests that have to be passed, and we’ll know going forward. But it’s not a definite that he’s out for two games.”

Smart, meanwhile, underwent treatment for a mid-foot sprain, which he suffered against the Bucks in Game 7 on Sunday, and the team ultimately decided to hold him out.

“The soreness was too much, still some swelling, and limited basketball movements that he couldn’t do,” Udoka said. “It was a possibility that he reacted well to treatment today and got better in these hours, but it wasn’t enough.”

Horford’s absence makes Robert Williams’ return particularly crucial — Williams missed time with knee soreness against the Bucks, but he was dressed and available for Game 7.

Udoka said Williams will not have a minutes restriction.

“We’ve unfortunately had quite a bit of practice with this early in the season due to injury and COVID situations, and so just like Game 2 when we won without Marcus — and Derrick stepped up — and then the last three games without Robert, other guys have to step up,” Udoka said. “We’ll do the same with these guys out.”

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The Celtics had a net rating of +2.2 with Horford, Smart, and Dennis Schröder (who, of course, was traded at the deadline) off the floor this season, per Cleaning the Glass. Horford’s defense tracked among some of the league’s best by many advanced metrics, and he was expected to play an enormous role against Heat big man Bam Adebayo. That matchup will likely now go to Grant Williams, who can match Adebayo’s physicality. Adebayo did not score in the 4:42 he was guarded by Williams this season, per the NBA’s matchup data.

The Celtics do still have Derrick White, who will slot in for Smart. Payton Pritchard will likely receive more minutes as a result as well.

The Heat will be without Kyle Lowry, who is dealing with a hamstring injury.

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