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Expect Celtics to ‘tread cautiously' with Porzingis' return

Expect Celtics to ‘tread cautiously' with Porzingis' return originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

If you believe the Boston Celtics should defeat the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals and advance to their second NBA Finals in three years, there's one storyline you're probably monitoring closely: When will Kristaps Porzingis return?

The 7-foot-2 big man has been out since April 29, when he suffered a right calf strain in Game 4 of Boston's first-round series victory over the Miami Heat. According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Porzingis is expected to miss Games 1 and 2 of the East Finals, although there's "optimism" he can return "sometime in the series" barring any setbacks.

So, how should the Celtics play it with their rehabbing big man? If the Celtics win Games 1 and 2 at TD Garden, should they keep Porzingis sidelined even if he technically could suit up? If the series gets close, should they bring him back even he's not at 100 percent?

Celtics Insider Chris Forsberg believes there's value in Porzingis playing at some point in the series even if the C's are up big -- at the very least to get him some game action ahead of what could be a grueling NBA Finals against either the Dallas Mavericks or Minnesota Timberwolves, who boast two elite big men.

"So there's a balance there, right?" Forsberg said Monday on NBC Sports Boston's Arbella Early Edition, as seen in the video player above. "If you're telling me he's healthy enough to go, I probably do want to see him at the end of the series, if (for) nothing else than to shake rust and get ready for (the NBA Finals), potentially if you're lucky enough to be going ahead.

"Because you can't just expect to go out there against (Wolves big men Rudy) Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns and all that -- I'm being very presumptuous with what I'm thinking is the Finals there, but I'd like to see him shake some rust in that instance."

Forsberg believes the Celtics won't bring Porzingis back until he's fully ready, though, especially considering Boston's current opponent: The Pacers are a high-octane team that loves to push the pace and boasts the No. 1 scoring offense in the postseason at 114.2 points per game.

"Against this team, one that's gonna want to get up and down, I just don't think a guy on anything less than 100 percent calf should be trying to run up and down with the Pacers," Forsberg added. "So I do think they'll tread cautiously and if your talent wins out, you don't even have to cross that bridge."

The ideal scenario for the Celtics would be to take a commanding series lead and ease Porzingis back into game action to prepare him for the NBA Finals. The Pacers played the C's close this season, though, winning two of the teams' five matchups, and will do everything they can to extend the series.

Game 1 at TD Garden is set for Tuesday night at 8 p.m. ET, with NBC Sports Boston's Celtics Pregame Live beginning at 7 p.m. ET.