Boston Celtics

What can we expect from Porzingis in Game 5? Mazzulla shares update

The Celtics big man has no minutes restriction Monday night, per Mazzulla.

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BOSTON -- Can Kristaps Porzingis help the Boston Celtics celebrate Banner 18 on their own floor Monday night?

That's a key question entering Game 5 of the 2024 NBA Finals at TD Garden against the Dallas Mavericks. The Celtics big man, who suffered a "rare" leg injury in the third quarter of Game 2 and missed Game 3 in Dallas, was made available for Game 4 but only on an "if necessary" basis, according to head coach Joe Mazzulla.

That need never arose, as the Celtics trailed the Mavs by 26 points at halftime and waved the white flag late in the third quarter of a 122-84 blowout loss.

So, what are the odds we see Porzingis in Game 5 after back-to-back DNPs? The Celtics officially listed Porzingis as available Monday night, and Mazzulla shared an optimistic update on the C's big man.

"He's available. Expect to see him tonight," Mazzulla said in his pregame press conference.

When asked if it was fair to assume Porzingis is farther along Monday than he was ahead of Game 4, Mazzulla replied, "Yes," and when asked if the big man would be on any minutes restriction in Game 5, he answered, "No."

Porzingis did go through a fairly active workout about three hours before game time at TD Garden and appeared to be moving quite well.

Earlier Monday, however, The Athletic's Shams Charania suggested the C's would take an approach similar to Game 4 in making their 7-foot-2 big man available but only using him as needed.

"I would expect the same thing here in Game 5 as far as him dressing and being available," Charania said Monday on FanDuel TV's Run It Back show. "You saw some of his teammates come out and say how much he wants to play ... but he's just not there from a physical perspective.

"... The expectation around the Celtics -- at least, he’s going to play a similar role that he did in Game 4."

Interestingly, Charania noted Boston's plan for Game 4 was to only use Porzingis in very limited, specific situations, such as defending the inbounder, guarding against a lob on a set play just before the end of the quarter or subbing in to shoot a free throw. So, either Porzingis has made considerable progress over the past 24 hours, or Mazzulla is engaging in a bit of gamesmanship.

"When we go through our practice, he's doing some stuff, but you can still tell he's very uncomfortable," Celtics big man Xavier Tillman Sr. said of Porzingis on Sunday, via John Zannis of CLNS Media. "So, we don't want to put him in any situation that could really, really hurt him."

Even with the Celtics one win away from a championship, Porzingis' long-term health should be taken into consideration. Boston won Game 3 without him and is 10-2 this postseason in games he's missed. While he's undoubtedly a game-changer on both ends when healthy, it's not worth risking further injury if he's not close to 100 percent.

Porzingis could give the TD Garden crowd a massive jolt if enters Game 5, so perhaps Mazzulla can use him in brief stints near the ends quarter to maximize Boston's homecourt advantage. But unless Porzingis comes off the bench in the first quarter and makes an immediate impact like he did in Game 1, the burden would fall on veteran Al Horford and Tillman to hold it down in the frontcourt Monday night.

Tip-off is set for 8:30 p.m. ET, with Celtics Pregame Live beginning at 7 p.m.

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