Horford cleared to play, Smart close, White out for Celtics | Professional national sports

MIAMI (AP) — Al Horford is back. Marcus Smart plans to join him.

The Boston Celtics are closer together for the Eastern Conference Finals. Horford’s stay under NBA health and safety protocols ended Thursday, hours before the start of Game 2 of the East title series against the Miami Heat.

Horford missed Game 1 because of those coronavirus-related protocols, and Smart missed the series opener with a midfoot sprain. But Smart took part in shooting practice on Thursday morning, and his availability for Game 2 will be officially determined based on what he does in pre-game practice.

Derrick White, who started and played 29 minutes in Boston lost 118-107 in Game 1 at Miami on Tuesday, will not play in Game 2. He left Miami early due to the impending birth of a child.

“You don’t mean it’s a difficult situation. We knew he was expecting a baby soon,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “Things happen in life and we always support our guys.”

Smart is the league’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year. The foot injury occurred in Game 7 of the Eastern Semifinals against Milwaukee on Sunday. He tried to prepare in time to play Game 1 on Tuesday, to no avail.

“He looked good,” Celtics guard Grant Williams said after the team’s practice Thursday morning.

Horford was in protocols for the third time this season. He missed the Celtics’ regular season opener, then missed five more games in December and was ruled out of Game 1 just hours before the tip-off.

“We weren’t ready to play without Al,” Boston center Daniel Theis said.

Also on Thursday, the Celtics reunited with their coach. Udoka missed a scheduled media session on Wednesday with what the team described as a non-COVID illness, but said he was ready to go on Thursday.

Miami will be without Kyle Lowry for the eighth time in its last 10 playoff games as he continues to recover from a hamstring strain. The Heat listed backcourt starters Gabe Vincent — Lowry’s backup — and Max Strus as questionable for Game 2 with their own hamstring issues, but both planned to play.

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