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Celtics’ Kristaps Porzingis makes immediate impact after injury

BOSTON – News, notes and observations from the Boston Celtics’ 107-89 win Thursday in Game 1 of the NBA Finals over the Dallas Mavericks…

Porzingis returned to the Boston lineup for the first time in more than five weeks and was excellent. Game 1 ended with 20 points (on 8 for 13 shooting), six rebounds and three blocks. Porzingis came off the bench for the first time this season and made an immediate impact, scoring 11 points in the first seven minutes to help the Celtics build a 37-20 lead.

“Even when I have time off, I can jump right back into it and I feel the same,” Porzingis said. “I’m getting into my place, so whether it’s the playoffs, the regular season or whatever, I know how to do this. That’s it, just having that confidence, going there, whatever, the first round or the final, just going out there with complete confidence and giving the team what I have.

As solid as Boston was during the conference playoffs — and the Celtics lost just one game after Porzingis went out in the first round with a calf injury — Porzingis’ return clearly makes Boston measurably better. Porzingis torched the Mavericks offensively, making switches and forcing Dallas’ bigs to chase him beyond the three-point line. Defensively, Porzingis was a threat; he contested the shots he didn’t block and on screens almost dared the Mavs wingers to take the ball to the rim.

“He was great for them,” Mavericks star guard Luka Doncic said. “He was knocking down shots. He blocked shots. So he was really big for them on both ends of the floor.

As happy as the Celtics were to get Porzingis back, the 6-foot-4 big man was happier to be there. He received a loud ovation when he came out to warm up hours before the game. And the crowd exploded when Porzingis appeared on the JumboTron and walked down the back hallway to the floor.

“It was surreal to get that kind of support,” Porzingis said. “The adrenaline was flowing through my veins and that certainly helped. Obviously it wasn’t ideal being away for so long, but I’ve done everything I can to mentally prepare for this moment when I return. And it paid off and we got the job done tonight and played a good game and (I’m) happy with the result.

Entering this series, the Celtics believed they were uniquely equipped to defend Doncic. They had two All-Defensive Team members (Jrue Holiday and Derrick White) and Jaylen Brown, who probably deserved to be on one team. Doncic got his points (30 of 12 on 26 shooting) but finished the game with one assist, his lowest total of the season. The lobs that powered Dallas’ offense in the conference finals? Away. The corner threes? Taken away. The Mavericks’ nine assists were their lowest total of the season.

“They did a great job on defense, making things difficult for us,” Dallas head coach Jason Kidd said. “We had some good looks that didn’t go down. We have to move the ball. The ball just hung too much.”

Boston head coach Joe Mazzulla said: “I thought our defensive mentality, our defensive execution, our defensive game plan, our positioning, we had the right intentions and I thought for the most part we played very physical, playing defense without making mistakes. “

Luka Doncic dribbles the ball against Derrick White.

Doncic finished with 30 points but had just one assist, his lowest total of the season. / David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Credit Brown, who clung to Doncic for most of his 37 minutes. Brown has the size and strength to stay ahead of Doncic and the discipline not to bite on his pump fakes. By not sending double teams, Boston shut down the rest of the Dallas offense; When Kidd waved the white flag in the fourth quarter, only two other Mavericks (Kyrie Irving and PJ Washington) had scored in double figures and neither had more than 14 points.

“What you saw tonight is kind of the challenge he set for himself going into this year,” Mazzulla said. “I don’t want to be defined by one thing. Want to make plays. I want to be a versatile player and keep getting better. So his distance, his ball movement, his defense on the ball and off the ball.”

The TD Garden crowd’s much-publicized hostility toward Irving never materialized; it’s hard to get too excited when your team is up by double digits for most of the game. Irving’s return to Boston was dismal: 12 points (on 6 for 19 shooting), two assists and three turnovers. While Irving dealt with Holiday most of the night, the ex-All-Star missed one lot of open looks, including several beyond the three-point line and three in the third quarter when Dallas briefly cut the lead to single digits.

“They really rely on their big defensive ball pressure and one-on-one defenders,” Irving said. “They lead us to certain areas. Even saying that, that they rely on one-on-one, every time I get an ISO, there’s almost two, three people waiting for me to come in. I have to catch the ball during a live dribble and be aware of my chances.”

The Celtics have buried their opponents in three-pointers all season, finishing first in the league in attempts (42.5 per game) and second in percentage (38.8%). In Game 1, the Celtics were 7 for 15 from three-point range in the first quarter, which helped build a double-digit lead that they would not relinquish.

Hauser had a tough conference finals, making 12.5% ​​of his shots and making just one three in a four-game sweep of the Indiana Pacers. He shook that off in Game 1, collecting eight points and making both of his three-point attempts. When Dallas went hunting for Hauser in the first half, he responded by locking up Doncic on two possessions and forcing Irving into a missed three.

Sam Hauser celebrates in front of the Celtics bench after a three-point basket.

Hauser shook off a rough conference finals and turned in a solid performance in Game 1 of the Finals. / David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver did not provide one during his annual pre-Finals press conference. Silver declined to comment on reports that the NBA had agreed to the framework of agreements with ESPN, NBC and Amazon, while passing on a specific question about whether Warner Bros. Discovery – the parent company of longtime NBA broadcast partner Turner – had the right to agree to any deal.

“It’s complicated for a lot of reasons,” Silver said. “One is the arrival of new platforms, especially streaming, and the interest from streaming companies, and then the traditional media companies who also offer our games on streaming platforms. It’s complicated when multiple partners are all looking for similar assets. In many cases, it’s just finding the right way to balance those games as they go to different partners.

“We tend to do long-term deals. We think this is good for the stability of the competition, but it means that you are trying to predict the future to some extent, which is of course impossible. So part of it is a bet on the partners that we will ultimately align ourselves with and their ability to adapt to the times and their willingness to continue to invest in media and also go global, which is also very important for the League.”