Felger and Mazz

Do Celtics need Porzingis to win NBA Finals? Kendrick Perkins explains

The injured center's status for Game 1 is unknown at this point.

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The Boston Celtics have been without Kristaps Porzingis since Game 4 of the first round due to a right calf strain injury, but it's possible that the veteran center could return during the 2024 NBA Finals, which starts June 6 at TD Garden.

Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla said Wednesday that he doesn't know yet if Porzingis will play in Game 1, but noted that the star big man has been ramping up the intensity of his rehab.

How important is it for Porzingis to be on the floor for the Celtics in the Finals? Do they need him to beat the Western Conference champion, whether it's the Dallas Mavericks or Minnesota Timberwolves?

Former Celtics center and current ESPN NBA analyst Kendrick Perkins thinks so.

"I don't expect him to look 100 percent. If he did, it would be surprising to me. But if he's 75 percent, and he's back on the floor and he looks as if he has his rhythm, then I have confidence," Perkins said Thursday on 98.5 The Sports Hub's Felger and Mazz show.

"I'll be way more confident than what I am (now) because I feel like whether they play the Dallas Mavericks or the Minnesota Timberwolves -- it's looking like the Mavs -- but I feel like Kristaps Porzingis definitely has to be on the floor in order for (the Celtics) to win it all. I really do. I think he's the most important player to that team for what he brings on both ends of the floor."

Perkins thinks Porzingis' ability to protect the rim and be a defensive force in the paint would really help the Celtics in the Finals.

"I think you need him," Perkins said. "You need that. I mean, he's 7-foot-2 for a reason. He stretches the floor. When it comes down to rim protection, I think this has been one of his best years, and not only just blocking shots but altering shots. You need that when you're facing a team like the Dallas Mavericks or especially the Minnesota Timberwolves.

"You need that guy -- not saying that Al Horford can't get it done -- but still, at the end of the day, you need a guy with the size and athleticism, especially when you're going against guys like Rudy Gobert, Karl-Anthony Towns, an athletic Dereck Lively and Daniel Gafford. You gotta have some type of presence at the basket when you have guys that love to attack the rim, like Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving, Anthony Edwards. The list goes on."

Porzingis averaged 20.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game during the regular season. His ability to score inside and from beyond the 3-point line, in addition to his stellar defense, helped make him a valuable part of the team's success.

The Celtics have played really well without Porzingis, including a 9-1 record since he left Game 4 against the Miami Heat. But if he were to return in the Finals, it would make an already talented lineup even more potent offensively and better equipped to defend the elite scorers on the other team.

Check out Perkins' full appearance on Felger & Mazz in the video below.

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