Kristaps Porzingis couldn't contain his excitement.
The Celtics' new big man logged a successful preseason debut Sunday at TD Garden, scoring 17 points in 24 minutes on 5-of-7 shooting while adding five rebounds, one assist and a block in Boston's 114-106 win over the Philadelphia 76ers. Stats and wins don't matter in the preseason, of course, but Porzingis was still downright giddy after the game.
"That was insane for a preseason game. I don't know what to say," Porzingis said while describing an impressively raucous Garden crowd sparked by Payton Pritchard's fourth-quarter heroics. "It was a fun game to play in, fun game to watch at the end when Payton was going off and the whole crowd was into it.
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"It was just -- I'm very happy to be a Celtic, I'm not gonna lie."
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Porzingis is clearly relishing the opportunity to play with a contender after winning 35 games in each of the last two seasons with the Washington Wizards. In fact, the 28-year-old has made the playoffs just twice in seven NBA seasons -- a pair of first-round exits with the Dallas Mavericks in 2020 and 2021 -- so it's no wonder he's thrilled to playing for a team with championship aspirations.
And while we shouldn't overreact to one game, it appears Porzingis can play a key role in sparking a deep Celtics playoff run.
The 7-foot-3 big man flashed his game-changing ability Sunday night. He drilled a 3-pointer on the Celtics' first offensive possession, then threw down a highlight-reel alley-oop from Derrick White off a high pick-and-roll later in the quarter.
We saw that type of rim-running from Robert Williams last season, but Porzingis' shooting ability makes him a true matchup nightmare for defenses -- and he knows it.
"I think it’s a big problem for the other teams to guard me in pick-and-roll with those guys, or pick-and-pop, when we play off of each other," Porzingis said Sunday night, via The Athletic's Jay King. "Handoffs, back doors, all that kind of stuff. I think it’s just really, really hard to defend."
When Porzingis is on the floor with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, White and Jrue Holiday -- a lineup that head coach Joe Mazzulla gave extensive run Sunday -- defenses will need to pick their poison. If that means helping off Porzingis, this could be the result:
And if that means paying more attention to Porzingis, the result is more room for Tatum and Brown in particular to attack the basket.
"Open space,” Holiday said Sunday night about Porzingis' impact, via King. “Another target, another shooter where you can’t really … you have to guard him. If you don’t guard him, he’ll do what he did tonight.
"Again, I feel like driving lanes are going to be a more open, guys like (Brown and Tatum) are going to get to the basket a lot easier … it makes the game easier for everybody."
Health will be paramount for Porzingis this season -- his 65 games played in 2022-23 were his most since his second season in 2016-17, and if you include playoffs, he's never played more than 72 games in one campaign. Porzingis can only pay dividends for the Celtics if he's on the court in late April, May and potentially June.
But Porzingis' potential in Boston is sky-high, and it appears he's well aware of that fact.