Kristaps Porzingis Delivers in Game 1 Finals Debut

Kristaps Porzingis spells concerns about his calf injury in Game 1 of the 2024 NBA Finals
2024 NBA Finals - Game One
2024 NBA Finals - Game One / Maddie Meyer/GettyImages

After spending six weeks out with a calf injury, Boston Celtics' Kristaps Porzingis made his presence felt off the bench early and often before catapulting his team to a double-digit lead against the Dallas Mavericks in his NBA Finals debut.

Porzingis, who came off the bench for only the second time in his career, scored eight points to go with his two rebounds and one block in the opening five minutes of his initial stint before finishing the night with 20 points on 8-of-13 attempts, six rebounds, and three blocks in the Celtics' 107-89 win in Game 1 of its best-of-7 championship series. It's been 38 days since Kristaps last played, which was in Game 3 of the Celtics' opening-round series against the Miami Heat.

"I was so in the moment, enjoying the moment, the crowd, and everything. I don't know, it's like a blur to me," Porzingis said after the win. "I had the most fun, and I hope I have more of those moments going forward."

Kristaps Porzingis

Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla announced Porzingis would not be on a minutes restriction in his return but could end up coming off the bench instead of reprising his role in Joe's starting lineup. Instead, Mazzulla stuck with Al Horford, who's been the starting center for all but three of the Celtics' playoff games this year.

The Celtics coach spoke to Kristaps beforehand about this move, which Kristaps says he agreed to prior to Game 1.

"From day one I came here and I said I'll do whatever it takes to help this team win," Porzingis said. "And I think in this situation, it makes sense."

Kristaps Porzingis

Jaylen Brown's 22 points on 7-of-12 attempts led six Celtics players in double figures along with Porzingis, Jayson Tatum (16 points, 11 rebounds), Derrick White (15 points), Jrue Holiday (12 points), and Al Horford (10 points). After tacking on 39 first-quarter points, the Celtics' lead ultimately ballooned to 29 before Luka Doncic, who finished with a game-high 30 points, and the Mavericks responded after halftime.

A 12-4 Mavs run sliced Boston's lead down to eight before Mazzulla's timeout midway through the frame triggered a 13-0 Celtics run that Dallas never recovered from. Porzingis, who had never advanced beyond the first round prior to this season, says not being able to suit up while watching his teammates compete in the postseason wasn't easy. But after shattering concern on whether he could still impact the Finals after sitting out for almost 40 days, Porzingis is grateful to compete at the ultimate highest level the NBA has to offer and says the adrenaline of heading to the parquet minutes before tip-off on Thursday, was unforgettable.

"Honestly, what helped me was the walk-up before the game. Then, getting on the court. Getting that kind of support is unreal," Porzingis said after Game 1. " The adrenaline was pumping through my veins. That definitely helped."

Kristaps Porzingis

Boston will host the Mavs in Game 2 at TD Garden on Sunday.

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