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Celtics offer little on Porzingis after leg injury

Kristaps Porzingis Boston Celtics NBA Finals

Boston Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis talks with reporters before basketball practice, Tuesday, June 11, 2024, in Dallas, in preparation for Game 3 of the NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks. (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

DALLAS— Kristaps Porzingis didn’t do an encore with reporters two days after Boston’s big man answered questions in the immediate aftermath of the announcement of his rare lower left leg injury.

Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla didn’t offer much insight, either, which means Thursday’s injury report will be the closest thing to any official word on whether Porzingis’ latest ailment will keep him out of Game 4 of the NBA Finals at Dallas on Friday night.

The Celtics listed Porzingis as questionable for Game 4, just as he was before getting ruled out about two hours before Game 3.

READ: NBA Finals: Porzingis’ status uncertain due to rare leg injury

Boston moved within a victory of an 18th championship without Porzingis, beating Dallas 106-99 on Wednesday for a 3-0 series lead. The Celtics are poised to break a tie with the Los Angeles Lakers for the most NBA titles.

The 7-foot-2 Latvian has a dislocated tendon in his left leg, caused by a tear of the tissue that holds tendons in place. The team has called the injury rare, and Mazzulla labeled it “serious.”

Porzingis played the first two games of the finals, with a crucial role in the Game 1 win, after missing the previous 10 playoff games with a strained right calf.

Mazzulla said the commanding series lead would have no bearing on whether Porzingis plays. The medical staff deemed him unfit to play after putting him through drills before Game 3.

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READ: NBA Finals: Porzingis a big problem for Mavericks team that cast him off

“Kristaps has gotten better from yesterday to today,” Mazzulla said Thursday. “He’s fighting like hell to play. But it’s going to be up to us to protect him and to make sure that it’s in the best interest for him as a player and as a person.”

Porzingis played beyond the first round of the playoffs for the first time in his career when he had 11 of his 20 points and two of his three blocks in the first quarter of Boston’s 107-89 victory in Game 1.

The injury happened in the third quarter of Game 2, when Porzingis said he knocked knees with Dallas rookie center Dereck Lively II when they went for a rebound on a free throw.

READ: NBA Finals: Celtics land biggest punches again to move closer to title

Al Horford has started all three games in the finals, including the two when Porzingis played, and Xavier Tillman Sr. had a 3-pointer during a 20-5 Boston run while playing for the first time in the title series with Porzingis out.

“We’ve been playing all season and all playoffs without (Porzingis),” star guard Jaylen Brown said. “Obviously, we’d love to have (Porzingis) out there. We are different when he is. But X stepped in that role, and I thought he was great.”

Porzingis signed a $60 million, two-year extension with the Celtics after they acquired him in a trade with Washington last summer. That deal kicks in next season.

Regardless of whether he plays, Porzingis has a chance to win a championship at the home of the Mavericks, who acquired him in a blockbuster 2019 trade with the New York Knicks, hoping to create a dynamic European pairing with Dallas superstar Luka Doncic.

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The Mavs branded that deal a failure by sending Porzingis to Washington before the trade deadline in 2022. The 28-year-old has a long history of injuries, including in New York and Dallas, and could be celebrating in street clothes on his old home court.

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“I’ve been through some stuff in my career, and obviously this is a rough patch coming back and having something happen right away again,” Porzingis said Tuesday, when the injury was announced. “It’s very — just a tough moment right now.”

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