Kristaps Porzingis returns in Game 5 as Celtics put away Mavs

June 18, 2024, 12:49 AM

BOSTON --  Kristaps Porzingis returned from a leg injury Monday night to help the  Boston Celtics claim a record-setting 18th NBA championship. 

He checked into Game 5 of the NBA Finals with 6:49 left in the first quarter. He finished with five points and one rebound and was plus-8 in 16 minutes as Boston closed out the Dallas Mavericks  106-88.

Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla had said Porzingis was "not quite ready" after he was made active for Game 4 and that he would be available in only specific situations in that game. Ahead of Game 5, however, Mazzulla said Porzingis had progressed beyond that point. 

Porzingis came off the bench, with Boston sticking with Al Horford at center to start the game.

"I gave everything I could ... and it feels great to be a champion," Porzingis said. .

He credited "of course the medicine" but also the "adrenaline" from the Boston fans for enabling him to compete. 

Porzingis was playing through the torn medial retinaculum allowing dislocation of the posterior tibialis tendon in his left leg that he suffered in Game 2. Like he did ahead of Game 4 in Dallas on Friday, Porzingis went through an extensive 25-minute pregame workout under the watchful eye of Boston's medical staff about three hours before tipoff of Game 5 at TD Garden.

"That was awesome. It's a huge credit to him," Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said of Porzingis fighting through injury to play and giving Boston valuable minutes in Game 5. "It just says -- about the team, everyone is going to do whatever it takes to win. And even though he wasn't a hundred percent, he said he wanted to play, and he knew he could give us something. ... It speaks to who he is, and it speaks to the locker room."

The 7-foot-3 Latvian, who hadn't played past the first round of the playoffs before this season, missed more than five weeks because of a right calf strain suffered in Game 4 of Boston's first-round series against the Miami Heat. He returned for the NBA Finals, with Boston going plus-25 in the 44 minutes he played in the first two games and sitting at even across the 52 he did not, before he was injured during Game 2 and missed Game 3. 

Boston acquired Porzingis a year ago in response to losing in the Eastern Conference finals to the Heat, sending out fan favorite and former Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart in the deal. Porzingis went on to average 20.1 points and 7.2 rebounds for the Celtics during the regular season and 16 points, 5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks across his two appearances in the Finals.