Celtics' Porzingis out of Game 3 of the NBA Finals because of rare tendon injury in lower left leg

DALLAS (AP) — Kristaps Porzingis did not play for the Boston Celtics in their Game 3 victory of the NBA Finals over Dallas on Wednesday night because of a rare tendon injury in his lower left leg suffered in the previous game.

The Celtics announced about two hours before tipoff that Porzingis was out, but coach Joe Mazzulla later left open the possibility of the center being ready for Game 4.

“The medical team and the staff decided it wasn’t what was best for him," Mazzulla said about Game 3. "It’ll just be a day-to-day thing, see how he is tomorrow and the next day. ... He didn’t look right. That was it. I was not involved in it. It was out of his hands.”

The 28-year-old Porzingis had missed 10 consecutive playoff games because of a right calf strain before returning last week for the start of the NBA Finals, and helped the Celtics take a 2-0 series lead against his former team. He jump-started the Celtics with 11 points and two blocks in the first quarter of their Game 1 win, then had 12 points in the game in which he got hurt.

The Celtics won nine of the 10 games he missed, then held on for a 106-99 victory Wednesday for a 3-0 lead.

The 6-foot-8 Xavier Tillman Sr. played for the first time in this series and made his only shot, a 3-pointer, during a 20-5 run that gave Boston a 21-point lead early in the fourth quarter. The Celtics held on despite blowing all but one point of that lead.

“Staying ready is something I’ve been doing for the majority of my career,” Tillman said. “They were kind of hinting at potentially if (Porzingis') workout didn’t go well and he didn’t feel comfortable that I was going to have to step in today.”

Porzingis has said he felt something after bumping knees Sunday night with Dallas center Dereck Lively II but kept playing. He left the game in the final minute of the third quarter and played only about 3 1/2 minutes in the fourth.

The 7-foot-2 Latvian has a tear in the tissue that holds tendons in place. The Celtics said it was unrelated to the calf strain he sustained in Game 4 of the first round against Miami on April 29.

Al Horford, who turned 38 last week, started at center against the Mavs, like he has since Game 5 against the Heat. He scored the first five points for the Celtics, on a short jumper and a 3-pointer. He finished with eight points and five boards.

After the team announced the injury Tuesday, Porzingis said he was going through constant treatment and doing everything the medical staff told him. He said he would do whatever he could to play, but acknowledged that he “can’t trick them into allowing me to play."

Mazzulla had said then that the team was taking that decision out of Porzingis' hands.

“I’ve appreciated just his approach. Throughout the whole playoffs ... He’s never missed any meeting, he’s always been out there, done everything he can to play," Mazzulla said before Game 3. "Sometimes it’s an unfortunate situation. It’s nothing that he can do.”

With Porzingis missing Game 3, he still hasn't played a game in Dallas since being traded by the Mavericks nearly 2 1/2 years ago.

Porzingis was the fourth overall pick by the New York Knicks in 2015, and was an All-Star before a torn ACL forced him to miss all of 2018-19. They traded him to Dallas in January 2019, a deal involving seven players and two first-round draft picks. Dallas traded Porzingis to Washington on Feb. 10, 2022, and the Wizards sent him to Boston in a three-team trade last summer.

When the Wizards played at Dallas in January 2023, Porzingis was inactive after playing in 12 of their previous 13 games. He also didn’t play for the Celtics this past January, when they visited American Airlines Center the night after he had 32 points, six rebounds and five blocked shots in Houston.



Stephen Hawkins, The Associated Press