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Kristaps Porzingis Shines in Celtics’ Game 1 Victory

Kristaps Porzingis rewarded the Boston Celtics’ faith in him with an outstanding performance in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. This marks a significant moment for the Celtics, who had strategically acquired Porzingis to strengthen their roster and address key weaknesses.

A Bold Move by Brad Stevens

After the Miami Heat eliminated the Boston Celtics in last year’s Eastern Conference finals, Brad Stevens, the Celtics’ president of basketball operations, sought ways to improve the team. He identified the need for more size, better interior defense, and variety on offense. When the opportunity to trade for Kristaps Porzingis arose, Stevens seized it, despite the high cost of parting with Marcus Smart, the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2022.

“To be able to throw the ball in the post and just shoot over a switch, and doing so efficiently and effectively is a big deal, let alone being able to play behind the line, shoot the ball, or drive it,” Stevens said after acquiring Porzingis from the Washington Wizards on June 23. “He brings a lot to our team. You can envision, as I can, some of the lineups we can put out there size-wise right now — pretty intriguing. And without dropping any skill at all. So that’s a good thing.”

Season-Long Validation

Porzingis spent the entire season justifying Stevens’ decision. His contributions on both ends of the court propelled the Celtics from a strong regular season team to an all-time great one, finishing with 64 wins and the fifth-best scoring margin in league history.

Game 1 Domination

On Thursday night, Porzingis dominated the Dallas Mavericks in the Celtics’ 107-89 Game 1 victory of the NBA Finals. He scored 20 points on 8-for-13 shooting, grabbed six rebounds, and blocked three shots in just 21 minutes. Porzingis’ impact went beyond the stats, as he took control of the game early, showcasing the skills Stevens had highlighted.

“He was great on both ends of the floor, defensive execution, game plan, playing for a spot in the offensive end, being physical, and making plays on both ends of the floor,” Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla said. “That’s the KP that helped us get to where we are today.”

Overcoming Adversity

A calf injury had sidelined Porzingis in the previous two rounds, but he was eager to make his NBA Finals debut. “It’s tough to not play for a month and then jump into the highest intensity game in the finals,” Porzingis said. He entered the game midway through the first quarter, with the Celtics leading by one point. His performance was electric, scoring 11 first-quarter points and blocking three shots, helping the Celtics extend their lead to 17 points by the end of the quarter.

Defensive Mastery

Porzingis’ presence disrupted the Mavericks’ defense, which had been formidable throughout the Western Conference playoffs. His ability to spot up from long range forced Dallas to abandon its usual defensive strategy. The Celtics capitalized by hitting 16 of their 42 three-point attempts and converting all 15 of their attempts at the rim.

The Mavericks’ attempts to adjust, including using a more agile center, Maxi Kleber, instead of their usual rim protectors, failed to stymie the Celtics. Boston’s game plan to force Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving to carry the scoring load worked effectively. Doncic, despite scoring 30 points, struggled against the defense of Jaylen Brown, while Irving was held to just 12 points.

Celtics’ Resilience

Despite a third-quarter surge by the Mavericks that cut the lead to eight points, the Celtics responded with a 14-0 run, securing the victory. Brown led the team with 22 points, six rebounds, three blocks, three steals, and two assists.

Looking Forward

The Game 1 victory left the Celtics just three wins away from their 18th championship banner. “It’s kind of like a blur to me right now,” Porzingis said. “I was completely just in the game. That’s the best feeling. Like, I had the most fun. I hope to have more of those moments going forward.”

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