A possible seismic shift struck the Eastern Conference Finals at the FTX Arena less than three hours before the start of Game 1 on Tuesday night, when the Boston Celtics announced that forward Al Horford had entered NBA health and safety protocols. And the series will be out. Opener against Miami Heat.
The designation not only excluded Horford for Tuesday’s best-of-seven series start, but based on the NBA’s required quarantine in such cases, possibly the FTX Arena for Thursday night’s Game 2 and the TD in Saturday’s Game 3. was out for the garden.
“We found out about Al two hours ago,” said Celtics coach Ime Udoka, less than two hours before tipoff.
Udoka indicated that upcoming test results could affect the timing of the Horford return.
“He’s feeling fine,” Udoka said, “and we’ll go from there, wait to see the results of the tests and future tests.”
Udoka said he was unaware of any contact-tracing issues with others on the team.
This is the third time this season that 35-year-old Horford has entered NBA protocol.
In addition, the Celtics announced that a second starter, point guard Marcus Smart, would miss the series opener due to a right mid-leg sprain during Sunday’s Game 7 win over the Milwaukee Bucks, which saw him miss the series against the Heat. advanced to the finals. ,
Smart was listed as a suspect earlier in the day. Horford did not appear in the Celtics injury report until he was listed as out.
“The pain was overwhelming,” Udoka said of Smart’s injury, “still some swelling, and limited basketball movement that he couldn’t do.”
Derrick White was the replacement starter for Smart, with the recently injured Robert Williams moving back into the lineup in Boston’s power rotation.
“I think this is the world we’ve been living in for a long time, certainly this year,” Spoelstra said of the looming uncertainties amid the pandemic, adding that “every team has the experience to deal with it.”
Or working on the fly with developed rosters on both sides, Spoelstra said, “It’s become the usual preparation: Expect the unexpected.”
For the Heat, guard Kyle Lowry remained sidelined with a strained left hamstring, though he was on the court for pregame shooting. This is the seventh time in the last nine games that Lowry has been ruled out with a hamstring.
Four Heat players were previously listed as suspects on Tuesday but were then cleared to play: Caleb Martin (ankle sprain), Max Strauss (hamstring strain), PJ Tucker (calf strain) and Gabe Vincent. (hamstring strain).
Earlier, Spoelstra said during the morning shoot that his team was in for an extended challenge, emphasizing that the smallest things can make the biggest difference.
“They’re big, those moments in between, the drama in the middle, the ball in the air, the ball on the floor,” he said. “I’m sure they’re saying the same thing. You have two teams that are proud of that, so it has to be very competitive between the lines.
“And both teams do it in a way that isn’t over the top. It’s about doing whatever it takes to win.”
Heat guard Tyler Herrow said he appreciated that it was time to dig defensively.
“I think both teams, everybody knows how good we are on that side of the ball,” he said. “I think whoever can get a relief bucket in transition, two buckets here or there, that isn’t from set plays and things like that, I think whoever can get the property in-between.” Well, I think it will benefit the series.”
All without leaving any defensive elements.
“I mean, that’s what we are, because I moved here three years ago,” he said. “We have always been old school. We are keen to score 120, but we can play in the 90s as well.”
Heat center Bam Adebayo said the team was savoring, but didn’t catch on at the moment.
“We’re just enjoying our moment,” he said. “For the most part, we’re keeping our heads down while keeping the main thing the main thing.”
The series is not only a rematch of the teams’ pre-2020 finals that the Heat won 4-2, but also a reunion for Adabio with USA Basketball gold medal Olympic teammate Jason Tatum.
“Since I’m playing against him, I know his instincts,” Adebayo said. “The Olympic team is completely different. But just knowing its instincts, that’s basically it.”
For all the backstory, Hero said that what cannot be lost is the importance of the moment.
“It’s what you want as a competitor,” he said. “Growing up as a basketball player it’s everything you could ever ask to be in a game like this.”