Boston Celtics guard Derrick White will miss Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat on Thursday for personal reasons, the team announced. The Celtics are also expected to be without Al Horford, who entered the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols ahead of the series on Tuesday.
White’s wife is expected to give birth to their first child, Celtics coach Ime Udoka said Thursday. The family’s plan to induce labor between games was scrapped when the finish came “earlier than expected”.
“We support our guys in this situation,” Udoka said.
White started Game 1 in place of injured guard Marcus Smart, totaling three points (1-4 FG) and four assists (two turnovers) in a 118-107 loss. The Celtics were outscored by 11 in 29 minutes. The Whites are averaging 6.7 points (35/24/83 single shots), 3.7 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 24.2 minutes per playoff game.
Boston listed Smart as likely to return from a sprained right midfoot for Game 2 in Wednesday’s injury report. Smart was injured in Sunday’s Game 7 win over the Milwaukee Bucks in the conference semifinals and left TD Garden with a walking boot. Smart, the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year this season, is averaging 15 points (42/35/79), 6.2 assists and 3.7 rebounds in 36.6 minutes per playoff game.
In Smart’s absence, Payton Pritchard played 30 minutes in the Game 1 loss to the Heat, and he should also see significant action in White’s absence. Pritchard had 18 points (6-16 FG), five rebounds and four assists in Tuesday’s loss. He was also a frequent target of Heat star Jimmy Butler’s offensive attack.
While White struggled to score in the playoffs, his absence, like Horford’s, removes an enabler of a driving and kicking motion-based offense and a versatile defender from their switching scheme. In a small sample size, the Celtics were outscored by 1.2 points per 100 possessions without Horford or White in the roster during the playoffs, which works out to about 121.1 points per 100 possessions.
Udoka left open the possibility that Horford could clear health and safety protocols before Game 2. He would demand that negative PCR tests be made available on Wednesday and Thursday. He could also go out of protocols before Game 3 if he returns two PCR tests with a cycle threshold above 30 on Friday and Saturday.
Horford is asymptomatic, according to Udoka. The coach also missed Wednesday’s media availability with a non-COVID-related illness, but is “good now,” ahead of the start of Game 2 scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET Thursday.
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