NBA playoffs: Celtics C Kristaps Porzingis could return from calf injury as soon as Game 4 vs. Pacers

The Celtics pulled off a wild 133-128 overtime win to take an early 1-0 series lead over the Pacers on Tuesday night

Kristaps Porzingis is apparently nearly ready to return for the Boston Celtics.

Porzingis, who has been battling a soleus strain in his right calf, could make his return as soon as Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. That would put him on pace to play Monday night against the Indiana Pacers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Porzingis went down in Game 4 of the Celtics’ opening-round series against the Miami Heat last month with an awkward non-contact injury. He pulled up after trying to make a move on the wing, and he then limped off the court very slowly. He hasn’t played since.

Porzingis missed all of their series against the Cleveland Cavaliers, which the Celtics closed out in five games, as a result of his calf strain. He was already expected to miss the first two games of the conference finals against the Pacers, too.

Porzingis has been “accelerating his on-court ramp up” in recent days in an attempt to return during this series, according to Wojnarowski, but the Celtics are going to “continue to be conservative in his recovery.” If he can’t return on Monday night, the Celtics will host the Pacers in Game 5 of the series next Wednesday at TD Garden.

The Pacers nearly knocked off the Celtics in Game 1 of the series on Tuesday night in Boston, but Jaylen Brown hit a wild 3-pointer with just seconds left in regulation to force overtime. The Celtics then pushed ahead to grab a 133-128 win in the extra period, which gave them the early 1-0 lead in the series.

Porzingis has averaged 20.1 points and 7.2 rebounds while shooting a career-high 51.6% from the field this season with the Celtics this season. Boston, which earned the top seed in the Eastern Conference, is back in the conference finals for a third straight season this spring.

Though the Celtics have survived in the postseason without Porzingis so far, his return could make a significant difference for a franchise that's searching for a second NBA Finals trip in the past three years.