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. Smart is dealing with a mid-foot sprain, while Horford entered the league’s health and safety protocols on Tuesday.
Ahead of Game 2 on Thursday, Smart has been listed as probable, while Horford remains doubtful, per the team.
Smart underwent an MRI on Monday on his right foot and the imaging returned clean, per ESPN, which is encouraging news for the Celtics in the long term. In the short term, though, it puts them in a difficult spot. Smart, who was named the NBA‘s Defensive Player of the Year a few weeks ago, was integral to Boston’s win over the Bucks in the second round of the playoffs.
In Game 6, he 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.
Smart 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 necessity for the Celtics. 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.
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Being without Smart was always a possibility for the Celtics in Game 1, but the announcement of Horford being sidelined due to health and safety protocols was a surprise. Those two guys are arguably the most important to Boston’s defense, and Horford’s offensive production was key in Boston’s Game 4 win on the road against the Bucks in the second round.