Boston Sports Tonight

Are NBA Finals ‘losable' for Celtics if Porzingis can't play?

Chris Mannix believes the door is now open for the Mavs.

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Only five teams in NBA Finals history have rallied from a 2-0 series deficit to win a championship. So on paper, the Boston Celtics are sitting pretty as the 2024 Finals shift to Dallas for Game 3 on Wednesday night.

But if the Mavericks are looking for an opening, they may find one in the doubt surrounding Celtics big man Kristaps Porzingis, who is questionable for Game 3 due to a "rare" leg injury he suffered in Sunday's Game 2.

Porzingis insisted he'll do everything he can to try to play Wednesday night, but the final decision ultimately will rest with the medical staff, according to head coach Joe Mazzulla. So, if the team holds the 7-foot-2 big man out, how does that impact Boston's chances?

Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix believes Dallas has a legitimate shot in this series if Porzingis is sidelined.

"This is why I do think this series is losable for the Celtics," Mannix explained Tuesday night on Boston Sports Tonight, as seen in the video player above. "Because it's one thing to play a banged-up Cleveland team, a banged-up Indiana team and play guys like Luke Kornet and Oshae Brissett. It's another thing to play Dallas and play those guys."

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The Celtics went 9-1 in 10 games without Porzingis this postseason after he suffered a calf injury in Game 4 of the first round against the Miami Heat. But the Mavs boast two talented big men (Daniel Gafford and Dereck Lively II) and two excellent finishers at the rim (Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving), posing a unique challenge Boston didn't see against the Cavaliers or Pacers.

Mazzulla always could lean heavier on Al Horford if he's not comfortable playing Kornet or Brissett in Porzingis' absence. But Mannix is wary of increasing the 38-year-old's minutes, especially with just one day off between Game 3 on Wednesday and Game 4 on Friday.

"When Porzingis came back, the benefit was twofold," Mannix said. "One, it was Porzingis being back in the mix and being Kristaps Porzingis. (Two), it was also keeping the minutes of Al Horford under 30 per game, and that's where Al Horford is most effective.

"If you look at some of his numbers when he's under 30 minutes per game, he's excellent. When he goes over 30, in those minutes between 30 and 40, that's when he tends to struggle. That's when the 38-year-old tends to slow down a little bit.

"I don't think Joe Mazzulla is going to have much of a choice but to play Luke Kornet. Luke is a very good player for the regular season, but when you get to the postseason and a series like this, I think there are some questions about whether he's going to be able to play in this type of series."

Trade deadline acquisition Xavier Tillman Sr. is another frontcourt depth option, but it's hard to place too much trust in a player who's appeared in just 20 games for Boston, says Mannix.

"It doesn't seem like the Celtics players on the floor trust him offensively as much as they trust Luke Kornet," Mannix observed.

The Celtics haven't lost a playoff game since May 9 and are 30-5 when Porzingis doesn't play, so there's plenty of evidence to suggest they can win without their talented big man. It's also still possible that Porzingis can suit up and at least be somewhat serviceable in Game 3.

But if the door was nearly shut on a Mavs comeback after Game 2, it's slightly more ajar in light of the Porzingis injury news.

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