Boston Celtics

Mazzulla: Porzingis ‘overrode' Celtics medical team to play in Game 5

The Celtics big man wasn't going to be kept off the court with Banner 18 on the line.

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Joe Mazzulla's announcement that Kristaps Porzingis would play without a minutes restriction in Game 5 of the 2024 NBA Finals came as a surprise, considering he had missed the previous two games due to a "rare" leg injury suffered in Game 2.

But it sounds like the Boston Celtics big man took matters into his own hands to get back on the court.

During an appearance on Barstool Sports' Pardon My Take podcast Wednesday, Mazzulla revealed that Porzingis overruled the Celtics' medical staff to make himself available for Monday's Game 5 at TD Garden, which ended in the C's celebrating Banner 18 after a 106-88 win over the Dallas Mavericks.

"Yeah, that's kind of how it was," Mazzulla said. "But it was like, 'We don't know how long this series is going to go on for -- let's try to save him from himself.' Because he was trying to play, so let's see if we can get through a game or two (without him).

"And then when it was Game 5 at home, he was like, 'Hey, this might be it. I've got to be out there.' So he was like, 'I'm playing,' and he overrode the medical team there was just like, 'I'm playing.' Credit to him."

Porzingis scored just five points in 16 minutes of action, but the fact that he even played at all is a testament to his toughness: The 28-year-old veteran admitted after Game 5 he'd need offseason surgery to address his injury -- officially diagnosed as a "torn medial retinaculum allowing dislocation of the posterior tibialis tendon" -- and is expected to miss a "few months" while recovering.

"From day one I said, 'I will give everything I can to this team to win a championship,'" Porzingis told NBC Sports Boston's Eddie House and Brian Scalabrine after Game 5. "... I tried to give everything and live by that and live by my words of like, 'I will die out there.'"

Porzingis certainly backed up that declaration, and according to Mazzulla, we could have seen the 7-foot-2 big man in Game 4 if Dallas hadn't raced out to an early lead en route to a blowout win.

"We would have used him in one of four or five different situations," Mazzulla said of Boston's plan for Porzingis in Game 4. "So, if there was a critical jump ball that we needed to win -- like if there was a jump ball in our offensive possession, we would have put him in. If there was an end-of-game situation where he had to guard the rim or be over the ball to try to get a deflection, and yeah, if we were winning, I would have put him in the game for a minute or two."

There obviously was a risk in playing Porzingis when he was less than 100 percent. But Mazzulla felt he owed it to the team's offseason acquisition -- who worked back from a right calf strain in the first round of the playoffs to be ready for the NBA Finals and make a significant impact in the Celtics in Game 1 -- to let him be a part of Boston's success.

"He sacrificed his whole career to get to this point, and to not be a part of it would have just devastated him," Mazzulla added. "He had a serious injury, and he worked his ass off to get back.

"What he brought for us in Game 5 was unbelievable and really led to winning. So when you have a guy in his career that's been through a lot and sacrificed a lot, you want them to be a part of it."

Abby Chin spoke with Kristaps Porzingis in the Celtics locker room as the Celtics celebrate winning the 2024 NBA Championship.
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