Celtics guard Derrick White to miss Game 2 vs. Heat, but Al Horford is now cleared to play

MIAMI — Celtics guard Derrick White will miss Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Heat Thursday night because he has left the team to be with his wife, Hannah, for the birth of the couple’s child, coach Ime Udoka said.

“It’s, you don’t want to say tough situation,” Udoka said. “It was expected pretty soon. [His wife] was going to get induced in between some games, and things happen in life, so we support our guys and always want them to be there for situations with their family.”

However, forward Al Horford, who missed Game 1 of the conference finals against the Heat because he was in COVID-19 protocol, has been cleared to play in Game 2 on Thursday, the team announced.

Horford was listed as doubtful on Thursday morning before being updated to questionable in the afternoon and finally being cleared to play just before 3 pm

“[Horford] was not feeling ill,” coach Ime Udoka said Thursday, before Horford had been cleared. “Like I said the other day, he’s feeling fine. He’s feeling OK. It’s something that was unexpected. He’s feeling fine since that day. There’s protocol and testing he has to pass, and we’ll go from there.”

The NBA updated its return-to-play policy for COVID positive players about three weeks ago, saying that players can be cleared if they have two negative tests on a game day. Previously, players were required to either produce two negative PCR tests over a 24-hour period, or have a viral load below a certain threshold four days after his first positive test.

White, who started in place of injured guard Marcus Smart in Game 1, is averaging 11 points, 3.5 assists, and 3.4 rebounds during the playoffs.

Smart could return after being sidelined with a foot sprain. Udoka said Smart will test out the injury before the game but he is “looking better.”

This was Horford’s third time in protocol this season. He was sidelined in October and December. Horford told the Globe in April that he is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Players who are fully vaccinated are no longer required to be tested daily unless they exhibit symptoms.

Udoka was unavailable for his news conference Wednesday because of a non-COVID illness, but he said he is fine and will coach Thursday’s game.

White was acquired in a trade with the Spurs in February and has emerged as an essential piece of Udoka’s bench. Although he has struggled a bit as a shooter, his passing and defense have been valuable. The Celtics have outscored opponents by 9.5 points per 100 possessions with White on the court during the playoffs, the best net rating on the team among regular rotation players.

With White out, Aaron Nesmith could be called upon for the second game in a row after being left out of the playoff rotation up to this point. He had two spectacular blocks in 11 minutes of action in Game 1.

Game 2 begins at 8:30 pm Thursday.


Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at adam.himmelsbach@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.

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