Kristaps Porzingis’ injury update should make Celtics a little nervous in NBA Finals

Kristaps Porzingis has been away from basketball activities for the last five weeks after suffering a calf strain. The Boston Celtics marched all the way to the 2024 NBA Finals without him, but their toughest opponent yet is waiting next in the Dallas Mavericks. Porzingis has been expected to return to the lineup for Game 1 of the Finals on Thursday, June 6, but his latest comments on his injury aren’t exactly encouraging.

Porzingis spoke to the media on Tuesday and was asked if he’s pain free when he runs. He smiled as he considered the question, took a long time to answer, and then said ‘uh, yes’ that he was pain free. It’s hard to believe him watching this video.

Porzingis said he plans to play in Game 1, but he left some room for doubt in how he phrased it. Via ESPN:

“That is the plan right now,” Porzingis said of playing Thursday. “Again, it’s a couple more days, and I think that could make a difference. Every day gives me a bit more time to get even better.”

When asked if he was 100 percent health-wise, Porzingis said “we’ll see.”

The good news for the Celtics is Porzingis has been back on the court in the lead up to the NBA Finals. He’s been scrimmaging with the team in an attempt to test his injured calf and get back in game shape before Game 1 begins. He hasn’t played since April 29 in Game 4 of the Celtics’ first round series against the Miami Heat.

Jack Simone at Celtics Blog has a terrific roundup from Porzingis’ full media availability on Tuesday.

The Celtics rolled through the Eastern Conference even without Porzingis, holding a 12-2 record in the postseason as they enter the NBA Finals. As they face the Mavericks, the Celtics need Porzingis on the floor now more than ever. Boston’s five-man starting lineup with Porzingis had a +12 net-rating in more than 1,200 possessions during the regular season. The same unit with backup Al Horford in place of Porzingis only had a +1.3 net-rating in 649 possessions, per Cleaning the Glass.

If Porzingis is playing at his top level, it’s hard to imagine the Mavericks win this series. Boston can win even without Porzingis at his peak. However, the margins tend to get slimmer in the NBA Finals, especially when Dallas has the best player in the series.

The 2024 NBA Finals are going to be amazing. Boston just better hope Porzingis is ready to go for the biggest games of his career.

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