Kristaps Porzingis Returns Strong as Celtics Secure 18th NBA Championship

Boston Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis looks to pass while he is defended by Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving during the second half of Game 2 of the NBA Finals basketball series in Boston on Sunday.Steven Senne / AP
Boston Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis looks to pass while he is defended by Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving during the second half of Game 2 of the NBA Finals basketball series in Boston on Sunday.Steven Senne / AP

Kristaps Porzingis returned to play for the Boston Celtics just in time to help them win the NBA championship.

The 7-foot-2 player from Latvia came back on Monday night after missing the previous two games. He scored five points and grabbed one rebound in 16 minutes to help the Celtics beat the Mavericks 106-88 in Game 5 and win their 18th NBA title.

“I gave everything I had,” he said. “And it feels amazing to be a champion.”

Porzingis missed Game 3 because of a problem with a tendon in his left ankle. He was allowed to play a bit in Game 4 but didn’t take off his warm-up clothes during Boston’s big 122-84 loss in Dallas.

On Monday morning, he wasn’t sure if he could play, but he did a workout on the court about 2 1/2 hours before the game started. The workout included shooting, doing some light contact with other players near the basket, and moving quickly from side to side.

Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla told reporters before Monday’s game that Porzingis would play, and said, “We expect to see him tonight.” Porzingis got a big cheer from fans when he got off the Boston bench to go into the game with 6:49 left in the first quarter.

He missed his first shot, a try at a 3-pointer, but then made one of two free throws. He made two baskets, including one big dunk in the fourth quarter that gave Boston a 21-point lead. He finished with 2 baskets out of 4 tries.

“Tonight was the night,” he said. “I was like, ‘Listen, I’m going to give it everything I have.’ And I’m just super happy to be a part of this and give something to the team.”

The Celtics say that the problem with his tendon is not the same as the trouble he had with his calf in April, which made him miss 10 games.

“It was something torn. And then my tendon is just out of place. And it hurts when I take a step. Like, I would take a walk in Dallas, and my leg would get big,” he said. “I was like, I don’t know how I’m going to play, if I’m going to play. But I always thought, I’m going to try to find a way how I can handle this.

“And somehow I got it going for this game. A lot of it was from the excitement of playing at the Garden and playing in front of our fans and having that chance to finish the game. And I got it going.”

Porzingis averaged 13.5 points and 5.0 rebounds in his first six games in this season’s playoffs, including 20 points, six rebounds, and three blocks in Game 1 against Dallas.

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Joe Mazzulla Leads Celtics to 18th NBA Title in Historic Win

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