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Celtics’ Ime Udoka Weighs In On Al Horford’s Return For Game 2 Vs. Heat

Posted on May 20, 2022

What a whirlwind it’s been for the Boston Celtics and Al Horford over the past 48 hours.

Horford went into the NBA’s health and safety protocols just hours before Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. The veteran center then had his status upgraded twice until he finally was ruled available for Game 2 Thursday afternoon.

Getting Horford along with Marcus Smart back for the second game of the series against the Miami Heat should provide the Celtics a boost even though Boston will now be without Derrick White for the contest.

“Obviously a benefit for us,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said about the return of Horford and Smart at his pregame press conference. “To get hit with that late news, we try to move on as quickly as we can and adjust rotation-wise and players stepping up. Happy to have him back, Marcus as well. Unfortunately, Derrick’s out tonight, so we’re still not a full (team). But happy to have two of our starting five back.

Udoka didn’t give details on how Horford ended up in health and safety protocols, only noting that the Celtics big man passed all the tests he needed to prior to Game 2. According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, Horford tested negative for COVID-19 on Wednesday and twice on game day.

“He passed all the protocols, passed all the tests, and I’m not a doctor, but he had to pass a certain amount of tests and league protocol, so he did,” Udoka said. “He was feeling fine from the get-go, so happy to have him back.”

The on-floor presence of Horford and Smart was sorely missed in Game 1 when the Heat opened the third quarter on a 22-2 run with the Celtics struggling mightily to stem the tide.

Udoka believes that having the veteran leadership of Horford and Smart will help the team navigate any in-game adversity they face.

“For us we try to move on quickly and we did well enough at times,” Udoka said. “I talked about the poor third quarter, but we did build a 13-point lead and had a good first half. Some of the veteran (calmness) those two bring could have been needed in the third quarter, so looking forward to having them back.”