Boston Will Not Have Al Horford Or Marcus Smart For Game 1 In Miami

The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat will begin the Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday night, but both teams will be without some very important players.

For the Heat, Kyle Lowry remains out with a hamstring injury he suffered in the first round against the Hawks and aggravated against the Sixers. For Boston, both Marcus Smart and Al Horford will be out for Game 1 after Smart suffered a sprained foot in their Game 7 win over Milwaukee, while Horford has entered health and safety protocols.

Losing the Defensive Player of the Year is obviously a major blow to Boston on that end of the floor, but Smart has also become one of their more reliable spot-up shooters and is their best offensive initiator outside of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. One would expect Derrick White, who was terrific in the conference semis against the Bucks, to step into the starting role and play major minutes in Smart’s absence.

Horford has likewise been huge for the Celtics, effectively winning them Game 4 in Milwaukee and playing some of the best defense of his career this postseason. Horford allows Boston to go 5-out on offense and switch everything defensively, and without him they will have to rely on Robert Williams (now fully back from his knee injury) and Daniel Theis in their center rotation, with Grant Williams likely getting some small-ball center minutes when they want to be more switchable. The Horford-Grant Williams pairing had been their most successful defensive frontcourt against Giannis Antetkounmpo and the Bucks, and losing that option for the opener, if not longer, is a big blow.