Celtics Rumors: Marcus Smart Targeting Game 2 Return; Al Horford Not Expected to Play

Erin WalshMay 18, 2022

BOSTON, MA - MAY 15: Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics smiles during Game 7 of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinals on May 15, 2022 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusets. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

The Boston Celtics will likely be getting some reinforcements for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat. 

Veteran point guard Marcus Smart is targeting a return to Boston's lineup in Game 2 on Thursday, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. The Defensive Player of the Year missed Game 1 with a right foot sprain.

However, the Celtics are not expecting big man Al Horford to clear health and safety protocols in time for Game 2. Sources told Haynes it's "highly unlikely" Horford will clear protocols in time to suit up Thursday.

The Celtics listed Smart as probable for Game 2 and Horford as doubtful.

With Smart and Horford sidelined, the Celtics lost 118-107 on Tuesday. After coming out of halftime with a 62-54 lead, Boston had a disastrous beginning to a third quarter in which Miami went on a 22-2 run and took a 93-76 lead into the final frame.

Smart and Horford have been a calming presence for the Celtics throughout the postseason, particularly in difficult moments when the team was being outworked. If the duo had been in the lineup for Game 1, it's possible they would have helped the team regroup in the third quarter.

That said, getting Smart back for Game 2 would be a huge boost for the Celtics, as he's the glue that holds the ship together. The 28-year-old is averaging 15.0 points, 6.2 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.1 steals this postseason. 

In addition, Smart would likely get the assignment of guarding Jimmy Butler, who dropped 41 points in the series opener. The defensive stalwart would be able to handle Butler's physicality much better than any Celtic did Tuesday.

It's unfortunate for the Celtics that they will likely be without Horford for Game 2. The 35-year-old has been a menace defensively and on the glass, and is averaging 13.0 points, 9.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.4 blocks this postseason.

Robert Williams III and Daniel Theis were nevertheless solid in place of Horford in Game 1. Williams finished with 18 points, nine rebounds and two blocks, while Theis finished with eight points, four rebounds and two assists. 

The bigger story for Boston was Jayson Tatum's seven turnovers and Jaylen Brown's 6-of-10 mark at the foul line. 

The Celtics need to bounce back Thursday night, or they'll face a 2-0 deficit heading home to TD Garden for Games 3 and 4 against the top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference.