Kristaps Porzingis returns, Game 1 performance is bad news for the Mavericks

Kristaps Porzingis returns, Game 1 performance is bad news for the Mavericks

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boston – Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis He started 472 of his 473 career games, including the playoffs, before Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

Coming off the bench for only the second time in his career and playing in his first game since suffering a calf injury on April 29, Porzingis scored 20 points, including 18 in the first half, and added six rebounds and three blocks as the Celtics beat the Celtics. Dallas Mavericks 107-89 Thursday.

“To walk into the stadium and get that kind of support was unreal,” Porzingis said of Celtics fans. “I had adrenaline pumping through my veins and that definitely helped.

“Obviously being out for a long period of time wasn’t ideal, but I did everything I could to mentally prepare for this moment of coming back and it paid off and we got the job done tonight and had a good game and I’m happy with that.” Results.”

Although Porzingis, who spent more than two seasons with Dallas, missed more than a month of the playoffs, Celtics coach Joe Mazzola wasn’t concerned.

“I knew the story had to be, ‘What’s he going to look like because he’s been out for a month?’” Mazzola said. “But that’s what he’s been doing his whole career. He’s a great player. He’s been great for us. The reason we’re here is because of what he did. It doesn’t matter how long he’s gone, the guy’s going to be gone.” To perform plays because of his talent and the work he does.

“What he did for us tonight was huge and we need that for the rest of the series.”

The Celtics did not “miss” Porzingis as they reached the NBA Finals with Porzingis sidelined with a right calf injury.

But the Celtics, who acquired Porzingis from Washington in a 2023 offseason trade, have missed his production, and that was evident in Porzingis’ return against the Mavericks. Mazzola told Porzingis he plans to use him as a backup.

“From day one I came here and said I was going to do whatever it took to help this team win,” Porzingis said. “This, it was logical. I didn’t care. I didn’t care. I knew I could prepare to come on as a substitute, which is something different for me, and that’s what I did and stepped into that role and embraced it and played a good game.

He is the fourth player since 1970-71 to score at least 20 points off the bench in his first Finals game, joining Derrick White (21 points in 2022), Fred Brown (30 points in 1978) and Phil Smith (20 points in 1975). ). He is also the first player in a Finals game to play 22 minutes or fewer, score at least 20 points, collect at least six rebounds and block at least three shots, according to

Coming off the bench, Porzingis was the early star. He entered the game with 7:17 left in the first quarter and scored 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting.

“I was in the moment and enjoyed the moment and the crowd and everything,” he said. “It’s like a blur for me now. I have to rewatch the game, but I was in the whole game. This is the best feeling. I had a lot of fun, and I hope to have more of those moments in the future.”

The Mavs tried several defenders on the 7-foot Latvian, but he kept shooting. During a two-minute stretch late in the first quarter, Porzingis dunked, blocked a shot, hit a 16-foot jumper, made a 3-pointer and blocked another shot that led to a Sam Hauser 3-pointer.

“He was just making plays after plays. He’s back, there’s no doubt about it,” Celtics star Jaylen Brown said.

With Porzingis on the court alongside Brown, Jayson Tatum, Derrick White and Jrue Holiday, the Celtics have the best five-man rotation in the league offensively and defensively.

On Wednesday, Porzingis sparked panic when asked what he expected of himself with his answer: “It’s hard to say. I haven’t played. I haven’t played in a while. Tomorrow will be my first real minutes in a while.

He explained his answer after the first match.

“All these thoughts ran through my mind at that moment,” he said. “Like what do I answer? I want to say I’m fine, but obviously I didn’t play. I wasn’t there. I didn’t feel it. Am I 100%?”

“But tonight, it was confirmation to myself that I’m in very good shape. Maybe I’m not perfect, but I’m very good and I can play like this and I can definitely add to this team.”

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