Home Sports 2024 NBA Finals: How Kristaps Porziņģis’ injury impacts series for Celtics and Mavericks

2024 NBA Finals: How Kristaps Porziņģis’ injury impacts series for Celtics and Mavericks

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Kristaps Porziņģis acknowledged that

DALLAS – In the moments after Boston’s victory in Game 2 of the 2024 NBA Finals, Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla said he had no worries about the leg injury that center Kristaps Porziņģis appeared to suffer in the second half of the 105-98 victory.

“No, he’s good,” Mazzulla said.

Neither did Porziņģis, who played just three minutes and 26 seconds in the fourth quarter of the second game before leaving for good with 4:40 remaining.

“I feel good,” he said. “Yeah, I don’t think it’s anything serious.”

So…about that:

All it took was a last-minute press release, released just as the Celtics opened their media availability at the American Airlines Center on Tuesday, to send sports fans and journalists in search of a sprint in medical school that could allow them to become experts in the ins and outs of the medial retinaculum. (First step in the process? Learn what there is more than one of them.)

The Celtics’ press release’s claim that the “torn medial retinaculum allowing dislocation of the posterior tibal tendon in (Porziņģis’s) left leg” is a “rare injury” is supported by the fact that the athletic trainer and injury expert Jeff Stotts of In Street Clothes says he has “only one real (comparison)” due to the tear in its extensive database.

“If the retinaculum tears, the tendon can slip out of place (dislocate), causing pain and instability in the ankle and foot,” Stotts wrote on Tuesday. “…It will be interesting to see how this is handled, but given (Porzingis’) injury history, there is cause for concern.”

However, it is still unclear how important this concern is. When asked if it is more a matter of pain tolerance or whether playing with the leg would risk a worse, more serious injury, Porziņģis said: “Good question. I don’t know.”

Kristaps Porziņģis is doubtful for game three. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

For now, at least, the Celtics haven’t discarded their 7-foot-2 walk mismatch: the center who spaces the floor and unlocks their brutal five-out offense, the interior intimidator who crushes shots and converts the paint on a no-fly. zone: out for Game 3. Instead, they have listed him as questionable for Game 3 and described its status as a day-to-day proposition.

“Yeah, I mean, listen, he’s doing everything he can to get ready for the game tomorrow. “It’s a serious injury,” Mazzulla said Tuesday. “At the end of the day, our team and the medical team are not going to put you in any bad situation. We have made the decision to play out of his hands because of his importance.

“He is going to do everything possible to play. We are going to leave it in the hands of our medical team. “That’s really it.”

After missing the end of the Celtics’ first-round series against the Heat and the entire second and third rounds against the Cavaliers and Pacers with a right calf strain, Porziņģis In fact doesn’t love the idea of ​​missing Game 3; This isn’t exactly a surprise, considering that hyperbolic post-Game 2 public declaration of his willingness to die on the court in pursuit of an NBA championship. (“Yes, I am living by those words, of course,” he insisted Tuesday.) But a collision late in the third quarter Sunday night left him with little say in the matter.

“Yeah, I was going to go get a rebound at the free throw line,” said Porziņģis, who wore a black sleeve and a brace over his left ankle as he walked, without a limp or obvious discomfort, to and from the podium Tuesday. “I just pushed (Mavericks center Dereck) Lively on the back, we bumped knees and something happened. After that I continued playing for a while.”

However, he didn’t look particularly good afterward, something the ABC broadcast team repeatedly noted, and which was laid bare by his inability to win fourth-quarter foot races with Kyrie Irving or Daniel Gafford:

“Obviously towards the end my movement was affected a little bit. “Joe took me out,” said Porziņģis, who said he has undergone “a lot of treatment, treatment all day long” to try to be healthy enough to play on Wednesday. “…It’s kind of a random situation. “I felt something and now I have to face it.”

And also the Celtics. The silver lining to this particular gray cloud? In the 35 games Porziņģis has missed this season, the Celtics are 30-5. In the regular season and playoffs combined, they have outscored opponents by 11.8 points per 100 possessions with him off the court, according to PBP Statistics. Not only do they have experience playing without him; so far they have been excellent at that.

“Same old as always,” Celtics star Jaylen Brown said of the team’s approach to Porziņģis’ uncertain status. “KP has been fantastic for our group, not just in the playoffs, but all season long. It’s obvious: He on the ground simply helps us rise to a different level. But we’ve been taking pride in our next-up mentality. We prepare for these moments, to be able to play with or without anyone. “It just requires someone else on our team to step up and everyone to commit to a complete team victory.”

However, as adept as Boston proved to be at getting those contributions, and as effective as the Celtics were in the Eastern Conference playoffs without Porziņģis, posting nine wins in 10 games over three rounds while recovering from the World Cup strain, soleus, it is indisputable. that the best version of the Celtics only reveals itself when he is on the court.

“We’re just a better team when we have him — a 7-foot-4 unicorn, right?” said Celtics star Jayson Tatum. “He’s as talented as he looks. He presents a lot of matchup problems on the offensive end. Then on the defensive end, someone who can influence shots and protect the rim as well as he can.”

That impact has manifested itself in the figures of this series. The Celtics have surpassed the Mavericks by 26 points in the 44 minutes that Porziņģis played in this series: an amazing show net rating plus-27.7. But in the 52 minutes he’s been off the field? Dallas has even played against Bostonpunctuation 104.8 points per 100 possessions.

If that doesn’t seem like a lot of points… well, that’s because it isn’t. An offensive rating of 104.8 would have ended last death in the NBA during the regular seasonand 13th of 16 teams in the postseasonjust ahead of the Cavaliers and Heat, who, in a related story, had to play the Celtics.

When you realize that the Mavs have put together a measly 90.4 points per 100 with the 7-foot-2 Latvian big man on the floor, and that no less an evaluator of Dallas’ plight than Luka Dončić said Tuesday that the team’s “main problem right now” is that ” We can’t really score” – it’s starting to look like a pretty big number.

And, perhaps, a great opportunity for a Dallas team that desperately needs a foothold to stabilize in these Finals and a launching pad to return to the series.

“I think the game of basketball is about right and wrong and capitalizing on mistakes,” Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd said Tuesday. “We just haven’t had that opportunity to capitalize.”

Porziņģis’ absence would represent an opportunity for Dallas to take advantage of several aspects.

Without him, Boston loses the weapon of forcing smaller defenders to attack him in the two-man game, opening up those post-ups that have been equivalent to playing Pop-a-Shot on well-meaning toddlers:

No Porziņģis also eliminates Boston’s most lethal pick-and-pop threat: the 30-foot floor spacer whose presence widens the lanes for the downhill drives that Tatum and Brown repeatedly hit Dallas with in Games 1 and 2, and whose quick trigger punishes the defense for straying too far to try to close those lanes.

It also puts more responsibility on Al Horford, who just turned 38 years old. The 17-year veteran has shown that he is still capable of producing at a high level in important minutes. averaging 10.7 points and 7.3 rebounds in 32 minutes per game during the 10 games Porziņģis missed early in the postseason, including a huge 22-point, 15-rebound, 5-assist performance in the finals win over Cleveland…

…and a 23-point, seven-3-point outing in Game 3 against the Pacers:

However, asking Horford to log a lot of minutes (between 30 and 40) could lead to diminishing returns. Especially on the defensive end, where any lapse in Boston’s pick-and-roll coverage could breathe new life into Dallas as it looks to open up more corner 3-point attempts, more alley-oop dunks for centers Lively and Gafford, and – perhaps most – crucially: more opportunities for Irving to relocate the shooting touch that abandoned him for two games in Boston.

“I can be a lot more fundamentally sound, technical in my shooting, not getting into the paint often when there are three or four guys around me, I’m not making a pass,” Irving said Tuesday. “They are sending specific strategies against me to make it difficult for me.”

However, how effective could those strategies be if instead of 48 minutes of Horford and Porziņģis patrolling the backline, it’s Horford and reserves Luke Kornet or Oshae Brissett, who have only seen the court in this series in time? Game 1 trash? ? Or Xavier Tillman Sr., who has never seen him?

“Whoever we put in there, we understand they may not be what KP is, but they’ll do whatever it takes to help us win games,” Celtics guard Derrick White said. “I have as much confidence in whoever we put in as I do in KP.”

The Celtics, of course, insist they are comfortable with Plan B if it comes down to it. However, with just two wins away from a ring, it would be great to be able to follow Plan A.

“For my part, like I said, nothing will stop me unless they tell me I can’t play,” Porziņģis said. “That’s the only reason I wouldn’t be there. …You know, we still have some time. We will see how I am tomorrow.”

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