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Another report Kristaps Porzingis expected to play in Game 1 for Celtics

Joe Mazzulla and the Boston Celtics likely will not make it official until as close to game time as possible — because that's what coaches do — but it's becoming increasingly obvious that Kristaps Porzingis will play in Game 1.

Porzingis has been out for more than a month with a strained calf suffered against the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs. Mazzulla said Porzingis had done everything in practices with the team on Friday and Saturday, but that practice intensity would ramp up Sunday and Monday and they would see how he responded. So far, so good, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

However, Porzingis' return does not appear to be 100% a sure thing.

Boston needs Porzingis to win what should be a tight NBA Finals. Dallas' defense has thrived the final 20 games of the regular season and through the playoffs because it drops bigs Daniel Gafford and Dereck Lively II back and makes rim protection priority No. 1. The Celtics' gameplan under Mazzulla is to have five shooters on the court, space the floor and shoot more 3s than anyone. Porzingis' return — he averaged more than five 3-point attempts a game and shot 37.5% on them this season — makes it much harder for Dallas to pack things in.

Plus, on defense, Porzingis gives Boston a rim-protecting big to counter Luka Doncic. Minnesota did that with strong perimeter defenders (Jaden McDaniels, Anthony Edwards) and Rudy Gobert in the paint, but now one defense can slow Doncic. He is a master of manipulating a defense and picking it apart. What Boston has, especially with Porzingiz, is a variety of different looks at him and try to throw him off balance.

Boston will certainly be asked about Porzingis' status at the first official Finals practice open to the media on Wednesday, but expect them to keep saying he's a game-time decision right up until he steps on the court for tip-off Thursday night.

Porzingis also was included on the preliminary roster for his native Latvia as it heads to an Olympic qualifying tournament in early July. Porzingis missed the 2023 World Cup for Latvia as he recovered from plantar fasciitis; now it's unclear if his calf issue will keep him out of the Olympic qualifying games. Latvia has current Charlotte Hornet Davis Bertans on the roster, as well as former NBA players Dairis Bertans, Rodions Kurucs and Anzejs Pasecniks. Latvia is in a qualifying group with Georgia, the Philippines, Brazil, Cameroon and Montenegro, with one of those teams qualifying for the Paris Olympics.

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