Neither the Boston Celtics nor the Miami Heat are fully healthy in the Eastern Conference finals, but one team got significantly better news than the other in the hours leading up to Game 5. Marcus Smart, dealing with a sprained ankle, and Robert Williams III, who has been fighting a knee injury all postseason, will both play in Game 5 against Miami Wednesday. Heat guard Tyler Herro, dealing with a groin injury, will sit out again.
Herro’s absence is not especially surprising. He missed Game 4, a Miami loss, and ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reported that in the regular season, his groin injury is the sort of issue that would typically keep a player out for 2-4 weeks. The Heat scored just 82 points without him in Game 4, and given the injuries Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry are also dealing with, Herro’s absence is going to significantly impact Miami’s shot creation.
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The Celtics, after being without at least one player in the first four games of this series, will finally have their complete roster available to them in Game 5. Smart and Al Horford missed Game 1, Derrick White missed Game 2, Williams sat Game 3 and Smart was out for Game 4. Now, the only question Boston has to answer is how many minutes it is willing to use Smart and Williams, and accordingly, what adjustments need to be made to its rotation to accommodate a full roster. Smart and Williams will likely be in their typical positions in the starting lineup on Wednesday.
We have not seen a single game in this series that hasn’t been impacted by injuries in some way, shape or form. With the series set to conclude on Sunday at the latest, it is unlikely that we will. Whichever team reaches the NBA Finals out of the East will have done so despite injuries that would have felled lesser teams, but Boston and Miami are here for a reason. They both have deep rosters capable of replacing key players when necessary. Miami will be put to the test in Game 5 without Herro.