For the Boston Celtics’ 127-102 Game 2 win against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals on Thursday, both Al Horford and Marcus Smart were back in the starting lineup.
Horford, who entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols a few hours before Boston’s 118-107 Game 1 loss on Tuesday, was raised to doubtful Wednesday evening, then to questionable to availability in around 90 minutes on Thursday.
Smart was labelled as probable to play after missing Game 1 due to a midfoot strain suffered in Game 7 against the Milwaukee Bucks. Smart scored 24 points, 12 assists, and nine rebounds in 40 minutes, while Horford had 10 points in 33 minutes.
“[Horford] passed all the protocols, passed all the tests,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said before the game. “I’m not a doctor, but he had to pass a certain amount of tests and you know, league protocols, and so he did and he was feeling fine from the get-go. Happy to have him back.”
There were two ways for a player to return to game action after testing positive for COVID-19: record two consecutive negative PCR tests at least 24 hours apart, or return two consecutive PCR tests sampled at least 24 hours apart with cycle threshold values greater than 30 beginning no sooner than Day 4 and 5 after testing positive.
However, according to an ESPN letter dated April 30, the league created a third game-day testing process that may allow players to return on game day.
If a player returns two consecutive “not detected” results from PCR testing collected on game day, he may be allowed to rejoin the squad.
This approach does not apply if either PCR test yields a positive or inconclusive result, and the player must remain isolated.
Derrick White will miss Game 2 for personal reasons, as he and his wife are expecting a child, according to the Celtics.
“Derrick is having a baby,” Udoka said. “It came sooner than expected. But we support our guys always in that situation. He had to rush home today.”