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Celtics' Kristaps Porzingis addresses rare injury that may sideline him for NBA Finals Game 3

Andrew Callahan, Boston Herald on

Published in Basketball

DALLAS — Two nights ago, Kristaps Porzingis had no doubts about playing in Game 3.

Now, his status is a complete question mark.

Porzingis is considered day-to-day and officially listed as questionable after suffering a tendon dislocation in his left foot/ankle late in the third quarter of the Celtics’ Game 2 win over Dallas on Sunday night. He has a “torn medial retinaculum allowing dislocation of the posterior tibialis tendon in his left leg”, according to a team press release that described the injury as “rare.” Whether Porzingis plays Wednesday in Game 3 is now up to the team’s medical staff, according to the big man and Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla.

“From my side, as I said, nothing’s going to stop me unless I’m told not to or not allowed to play,” Porzingis said Tuesday. “That’s the only reason I (won’t) be out there.”

“He’s doing anything and everything he can to be ready for the game tomorrow,” Mazzulla added. “It’s a serious injury, and at the end of the day, our medical team is not going to put him in any bad situations. We’ve taken the decision to play out of his hands.”

The media retinaculum is connective tissue helps holds tendons in place, including the posterior tibialis, the largest tendon in the ankle that attaches the calf muscle to bones in the foot. Porzingis told reporters he got hurt while fighting Dallas center Dereck Lively for a rebound off a Celtics free throw, a collision that forced his left leg to bend sideways at the knee and ankle.

Porzingis said he is unsure whether playing could incur risk of greater injury, but remains optimistic about suiting up, despite the fact he sat for the final 4:40 minutes of Game 2.

“I am. Yeah, I have to be. I’m optimistic. As I said, I will do everything I can to be out there tomorrow,” he said. “We’ll see.”

In the press release, the Celtics claimed Porzingis’ new injury is unrelated to the right calf strain that sidelined him for the entire second round of the playoffs and the Eastern Conference finals. After more than a month off the court, Porzingis made a triumphant return in Game 1 of the Finals, scoring 20 points in 21 minutes of a blowout Boston win. In Game 2, he played 23 minutes before exiting with a stat line of 12 points, four rebounds and two blocks on 4-of-7 shooting.

Porzingis’ offensive spacing and defensive rim protection have keyed Boston’s early control of this Finals.

 

“KP has been tremendous for our group, not just in the playoffs, but all season long,” Jaylen Brown said Tuesday. “It’s obvious him on the floor just helps elevate us to a different level.”

Brown added the Celtics have prided themselves on a “next man up” mentality. Boston is 30-5 without Porzingis this season, including the playoffs.

“We prepare for these moments to be able to play with or without anyone,” Brown said. “It just requires somebody else on our team to step up and everybody to buy in to get a full team victory.”

Teammates described Porzingis as upbeat Tuesday, though he did not participate in the portion of practice open to the media.

“(Porzingis) always has a great attitude,” Celtics guard Jrue Holiday said. “That’s something you don’t have to worry about. He’s just like this joy and this light. Anytime he walks into a room, no matter what’s going on, he brings that every time.”

If Porzingis cannot play, the Celtics will likely start Al Horford in his place for a third straight game. Boston could also dip into its bench, starting with more minutes for Sam Hauser and/or backup bigs Luke Kornet and Xavier Tillman. Kornet’s playing time in the Finals has thus far been limited to three minutes of garbage time in Game 1, while Tillman hasn’t taken the floor yet.

Tillman did play 15 minutes during the Celtics’ last regular-season matchup with Dallas, a 138-110 victory on March 1. He registered six points, two assists, one rebound and a block over 15 minutes.

Porzingis relayed he will receive around-the-clock treatment until Game 3 tips off at 8:30 p.m. in Dallas.

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