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In an unexpected move, the Boston Celtics have upgraded Al Horford from doubtful to available, meaning he and Marcus Smart will return for Game 2.
After the Celtics lost Game 1 to the Miami Heat, head coach Ime Udoka noted that the team was missing two of its key veteran players: Marcus Smart and Al Horford.
Good news arrived when Smart became available, but Horford remained out of the lineup — until now.
A few hours before tipoff in a heated Eastern Conference Finals series, ESPN’s Tim Bontemps shared the news that Horford suddenly became available to play in Game 2.
Al Horford went from doubtful to available in critical Game 2
With Horford and Smart back, the Celtics have an opportunity to shift the momentum in a 0-1 series against the Heat.
Injuries were one part of it, but missed free throws and heavy turnovers also played a major role in the 11-point loss. One stat indicates just how poor Boston was in the third quarter: Heat star Jimmy Butler outscored the entire Celtics team in the third quarter.
As of yesterday, NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski described Horford’s continued presence in health and safety protocols as a “likely scenario.”
It was unclear whether or not Horford himself contracted COVID-19, but if he is able to return, it means that he has now tested negative for the virus.
Udoka shared on Tuesday that Horford was “feeling fine“, but the team was waiting to offer more information on his status based on testing results.
“He’s feeling fine and go from there,” Udoka told media. “Wait to see results and future tests.”
It’s an important development for the Celtics, who can credit their success in Game 4 of their series against the Milwaukee Bucks to Horford’s tenacity. Or, as Horford’s sister put it, “that look.”
FanSided’s Ben Ladner offered further context on just how much of a game-changer Horford has been for Boston in the playoffs. One stat that stands out is that the 35-year-old center logged an average of 39 minutes through 5 games, per Ladner.
Horford is” the latest role player to step into the spotlight, having crawled out of the woodwork to completely change the complexion of one of the best second-round playoff bouts in recent memory,” according to Ladner.
Ideally for Boston, Horford will be able to make just as much of an impact in this series as well, and his availability in Game 2 could create the grounds for a successful revenge game against the Heat.