Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Kristaps Porzingis injury update: Celtics big man expected to return for Game 1 of NBA Finals, per report

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The Boston Celtics are expected to get ailing big man Kristaps Porzingis back for Thursday’s Game 1 of the NBA Finals, according to Shams Charania. Porzingis, who has missed Boston’s last 10 games due to a calf strain (and hasn’t played since April 29), has completed multiple scrimmages in recent days. He had initially been expected to return during the Eastern Conference finals, but with Boston sweeping the Indiana Pacers, Porzingis had extra time to recover in the long break before the Finals against the Dallas Mavericks.

Now Porzingis is set to make it back in time for a Finals series that will hold special significance for him. The Celtics will be facing his former team in a series that holds revenge elements on both sides. While Porzingis will be facing Dallas, former Celtics star Kyrie Irving will be facing the Mavericks after leaving as a free agent in 2019 and infamously stomping on Lucky the Leprechaun, the team’s logo, after beating the Celtics in a 2021 series as a member of the Brooklyn Nets.

Boston survived the absence of Porzingis in the first three rounds, but all three teams the Celtics faced in the Eastern Conference were dealing with injuries of their own. The Miami Heat didn’t have Jimmy Butler. The Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t have Jarrett Allen, and lost Donovan Mitchell midway through the series. The Indiana Pacers lost Tyrese Haliburton midway through the Eastern Conference finals.

Dallas will be a far less forgiving opponent. Their new starting lineup, which formed at the trade deadline, went 15-1 in the regular season and is now 12-5 in the postseason. Porzingis will provide a critical layer of rim-protection against Irving and Luka Doncic, a backcourt that is steadily earning acclaim as one of the great offensive duos in NBA history, while also providing scoring on all three levels offensively. If Dallas guards him with their centers, the Celtics will space Porzingis deep behind the 3-point arc to draw that big man away from the rim. If Dallas puts a smaller player on him, he can post that player up and shoot mid-range jumpers over him.

The playoffs thus far have featured injuries all across the board. Fortunately, though, it appears both teams will have everyone available for Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

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