Celtics’ Kristaps Porzingis ‘getting better’ ahead of NBA Finals

BOSTON — Kristaps Porzingis participated in part of Friday’s practice — the Boston Celtics’ first since reaching the NBA Finals earlier this week — and coach Joe Mazzulla said he was pleased with the player’s recovery. center following a sprained right calf.

“He’s doing better,” Mazzulla said at the team’s facility. “He’s shooting. He’s been doing some drills in practice. So he’s progressing well and he’s pretty confident where he’s at right now.”

Porzingis has been out for more than four weeks since he was injured in Game 4 of the first-round playoff series against the Miami Heat. Although Porzingis was a key cog on both ends of the court, the Celtics still managed to go 9-1 without him, dispatching the Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers to return to the Finals for the second time in three seasons.

After joining the Celtics in a blockbuster trade last June that saw franchise icon Marcus Smart leave town, Porzingis averaged 20.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game this season. He shot a career-best 51.6 percent while hitting 37.5 percent of his 3-pointers on more than five attempts per game.

Friday’s practice was the first time since the injury that the media saw Porzingis do anything, even if it was just a few 3-point moves that he performed without any noticeable signs of limping or damage. ‘clinging.

As for Porzingis’ availability for Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday (8:30 p.m. ET, ABC), Mazzulla — usually tight-lipped about injuries — revealed nothing.

“I’m sure it is whatever day today is,” Mazzulla said.

Mazzulla and the Celtics are also confident in their ability to prepare for the challenge that is the NBA Finals. Two years ago, when Boston played the Golden State Warriors, the Celtics were a team lacking Finals experience. This time, the shoe is on the other foot, as every member of Boston’s rotation has appeared in at least one game during their career, while the only Mavericks to have done so are Kyrie Irving and Markieff Morris.

Al Horford said the Celtics will “absolutely” benefit from their experiences from two seasons ago.

“I think it’s going to help tremendously, because the first time it was like a roller coaster,” Horford said. “There’s a lot going on. The increased media coverage and all the responsibilities we had and everything that came with it.

“So I think this time around we all understand each other. We know what things are like and I feel like we’ll be able to handle everything better.”

The other advantage the Celtics consider an advantage is the significantly fewer games this team has played in these playoffs – 14 – compared to two years ago, when the Celtics entered the Finals having played two series back-to-back games against the Milwaukee Bucks and Heat.

Boston will surely hope that this will be enough to tip the scales in their favor and win a record 18th championship banner.

“I mean, it takes everything,” said Jrue Holiday, who won the 2021 NBA title with the Bucks. “I think it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Mentally, physically, you’re exhausted. The teams know each other so well at this point, it’s kind of about making games. It’s about executing. I think for me the most important thing is how exhausted you were or how exhausted I was because I left everything on the floor.

“…I think by being able to go out there and fight and leave everything behind on the court, you have the best chance of getting that win.”

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