The Boston Celtics are facing an 0-1 hole for the second time this postseason, and they ran into that issue partially because the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and the team’s floor general was unable to play due to a foot sprain. Both Marcus Smart and the Celtics are hoping that turns out to be just a one-game absence, according to Chris Haynes.
Sources to @ChrisBHaynes: Celtics G Marcus Smart is aiming towards a return in Game 2 against the Heat, but Al Horford is unlikely.— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) May 18, 2022
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Smart was ruled as questionable all the way up to two hours before the game when both he and Al Horford (Health and Safety Protocols) were ruled out of the game. Smart was clearly in pain, limping into the arena and still wearing protective gear with his street clothes on the bench. Playing may be a pain tolerance situation as Udoka revealed yesterday pregame that the foot was still leading to pain and swelling.
This report is suggesting that the pain and swelling are both down for Smart this morning. Haynes noted that “it is dependent on how his foot responds to treatment over the next 36 hours.” This gives him another day to ramp up before Game 2 against Miami tips off tomorrow evening. The every-other-day schedule for the Eastern Conference Finals is unforgiving, so the Celtics will just have to deal with injuries as they come.
Smart’s absence was certainly felt, particularly in a third quarter where the Celtics were outscored 39-14. Even just an average third quarter likely would have helped the Celtics to victory as they outscored the Miami Heat in the other three frames. The key component was the 8 turnovers from the Celtics just in the third period.
Without Smart on the floor, 6 of those turnovers came from Jayson Tatum and 2 of them came from Jaylen Brown.
Additionally, Payton Pritchard had a strong offensive outing, but he was routinely picked on by Jimmy Butler and the Heat in his uncharacteristically high 30 minutes. Pritchard is not a traffic cone by any means, but he doesn’t have the size and length to bother Jimmy Butler in isolation – hence Butler (rightfully) grifting his way to 18 free-throw attempts on the evening in addition to his tough shot making.
Marcus Smart likely remedies that.
The Celtics will also be without Al Horford in Game 2 most likely. Haynes reports that there’s a “minuscule path” back to the court tomorrow for Horford, but that the source insists that that path is unlikely. Miami’s frontcourt didn’t have a spectacular evening last night, so if Game 1 is what we’re going off of, tightening up the perimeter defense is the key to stealing one in Miami before heading back to Boston for two home games.
If the Celtics get the best perimeter defender in the league back for Game 2, that bodes well for their chances.
The Boston Celtics will look to even the Eastern Conference Finals series against the Miami Heat tomorrow at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.