Chris Forsberg

Kristaps Porzingis has become the Celtics' offensive cheat code

The C's big man added a new dimension to Boston's offense.

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The Boston Celtics have the third-best offense in the NBA, but despite all their obvious scoring talent, they’ve been prone to maddening scoring lulls whenever they go cold from distance.

Enter Kristaps Porzingis, who often feels like a cheat code.

Not only does Porzingis give the team another weapon capable of scorching opponents from beyond the arc, but he’s become a must-have safety valve around the basket, either when teams are forced to switch a smaller defender onto him or when Boston just desperately needs a bucket to quell a drought.

On Christmas Day, Porzingis made 11 of 13 shot attempts inside the 3-point arc. He’s now shooting a career-best 66.7 percent on all 2-point shots, or 16.1 percent above his career average. Porzingis is shooting a career-best 83.1 percent at the rim (up from 70 percent for his career) and 66 percent on all shots from 3-10 feet (up from 41.8 percent for his career).

After Monday’s win over the Lakers, Jayson Tatum gushed about what a luxury it is for Boston to have someone like Porzingis. He noted the Celtics haven’t had that sort of back-to-the-basket threat during his time in Boston.

And the Celtics are embracing that option.

Boston shot just 31 percent from 3-point range in Los Angeles on Christmas Day. At times, they wouldn’t have been able to survive a below-average shooting night from distance. Now, they can still win comfortably against a LeBron James team on the road even when it happens.

Porzingis is a monster reason why.

Porzingis is averaging a league-best 1.44 points per play on all post up opportunities. He’s shooting 71.4 percent on all post up chances and generating free throws on a ridiculous 32.7 percent of those plays.

Smaller defenders routinely look helpless as Porzingis dips into the Kevin McHale footwork bag and works for a quality look. His Celtics teammates are slowly getting better at identifying when he has those mismatches and making sure the ball finds him.

Porzingis finished with 28 points on 11-of-19 shooting overall on Christmas Day. He was a team-best plus-16 in plus/minus over 35 minutes of court time.

The Celtics are now 15-1 when they have their preferred starters on the court, and it has become clear just how vital Porzingis is to them preventing the sort of painful scoring lulls that were common last season (and in non-Porzingis games this year).

For his part, Porzingis has embraced efficiency over volume. After putting up All-Star-level production as a focal point with the Wizards last season, he’s content to score when needed and provide solid backline defense on the other end. He’s embraced team success over individual accolades.

Porzingis is scoring 132.2 points per 100 shots attempts this season, the best mark of his career, per Cleaning the Glass data. He takes good care of the basketball, he’s a foul magnet when he gets it, and he’s generating and-1s more frequently than any point of his career this season.

The Celtics might have only scratched the surface on utilizing Porzingis as a post option when the offense goes stagnant.

There’s a chance they haven't even unlocked the full power of their cheat code.

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