The reality of NBA back-to-back hits home again Tuesday, with the Boston Celtics without three starters for their nationally televised game against the Miami Heat at Miami-Dade Arena.
Already without starting guard Marcus Smart, who sprained his right ankle in Saturday night’s victory over the Toronto Raptors, the Celtics announced midday Tuesday that they also would be without starting wing Jaylen Brown and starting big man Al Horford.
Heat guard Tyler Herro the team went through its morning shootaround scheming for a more complete version of the Celtics.
“We prepared normally as if everyone is playing,” Herro said. “You want to prepare for their best players and guys that are in the lineup normally.”
The absence of Horford was expected, with the 36-year-old veteran having played 30 minutes in Monday night’s 113-98 loss to the Orlando Magic at Amway Center. The Celtics listed Horford out due to lower-back stiffness.
Brown, who played 37 minutes Monday, was listed as out due to right adductor injury management.
The Celtics also said reserve guard Malcolm Brogdon, another prime rotation component, would miss a second consecutive game due to personal reasons.
Herro said losing a January measuring stick against the true Celtics hardly was a setback.
“It’s still middle of January,” he said. “The playoffs are the big games, and that’s what matters most.”
Brown scored 37 points in the teams’ previous meeting, a 120-116 Heat overtime victory Dec. 2 at TD Garden, with Smart closing that game with 18 points and nine assists.
Boston also remains without offseason acquisition Danilo Gallinari, who has not played this season due to offseason knee surgery.
The NBA has attempted to dissuade teams from holding out players in nationally televised games, with Tuesday’s Heat-Celtics on TNT, but nonetheless scheduled Boston for Monday’s game in Orlando.
The Celtics had held out center Robert Williams on Monday night as part of his knee maintenance program. Williams was not on Tuesday’s injury report.
“Ultimately it’s a long season,” Heat forward Caleb Martin said of the Celtics’ absences, “and there’s strategic plans for everybody and every team in different ways and different parts of the season.”
The Celtics’ latest absences come in the wake of forward Jayson Tatum acknowledging Monday that he could need offseason surgery to repair his injured left wrist. He missed Saturday’s game against the Raptors due to soreness in the wrist but was not on Tuesday’s injury report.
“Maybe. I don’t want to say yes; I don’t want to say no,” Tatum said of potential wrist surgery. “It’s something we have to look at once the season’s over, but nothing that’s going to cause me to miss significant time the rest of the season.”
The Heat continue with three players in the midst of long-term absences, with Omer Yurtseven recovering from November ankle surgery, Duncan Robinson from December finger surgery and Nikola Jovic dealing with a lower-back stress reaction.
“Now is the time to take those steps to progress to get where we want to get to right now,” Martin said of his team’s relative health, “so we’re all trying to make sure we’re mentally, physically well enough to do what we want to do.”
The Heat have been uneven against shorthanded rosters this season, including losses when the Memphis Grizzlies were lacking Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr., and when the Los Angeles Lakers were lacking LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
“You try to keep the same mentality going in every night,” Herro said, “no matter who you’re playing.”