Porzing suddenly became a big problem for Dallas

Porzing suddenly became a big problem for Dallas

The Mavericks couldn't find the best way to utilize center Kristaps Porzingis during his three seasons in Dallas.

Three years later, the Mavericks now have a major problem with Porzingis in the NBA Finals.

Dallas coach Jason Kidd said before the start of the series that he didn't think Porzingis got enough praise for his ability as a shot blocker and someone who can disrupt opponents' shots.

The 7-footer did both in his dramatic return to the court in Boston's 107-89 Game 1 win, while also providing a scoring punch (20 points in 21 minutes of action) that fueled the explosion.

It was a complete showcase of his Boston-created skills that were not fully utilized during Porzingis' tenure in Dallas.

“He's playing his part,” Kidd said. “I think that's one of the things that's underrated about KP. When you ask him to do something, he does it. He doesn't complain about his role. He goes out and tries to help his team win.”

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In addition, he did so in his first match back after being sidelined for more than a month due to a strained right calf muscle.

“Even if I take time off, I can come back and feel the same way,” Porzingis said. “I know how to do it. That's what it's all about, having that confidence, coming out no matter what the first round or the final, coming out with full confidence and giving what I have to the team.”

Kidd worked Porzingis in just 34 games during the 2021-22 season before being traded at the trade deadline to the Wizards. It was an admission by the Mavs that his use in a system in which he is asked to split time between scoring and shooting three-pointers doesn't fit with superstar Luka Doncic.

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“We're judged on whether it's a success or not. That's just part of the job,” Kidd said.

There's also a risk that trading for a player of Porzingis' caliber could eventually come back to bite him.

He did just that in Game 1, as Porzingis sparked an early 17-5 run to help Boston take a 17-point first quarter lead.

But what he did on the defensive end throughout the game had just as much impact.

Two of Porzingis' three blocks were at the rim, one on Derrick Jones Jr. and one on Josh Green. He also blocked a shot from Kyrie Irving.

Dallas' big men, Daniel Gafford and Derek Lively, combined to make 4 of 4 field goals and scored 10 points. But they had no blocks and only had eight rebounds.

“He looked healthy to me,” Gafford said of Porzingis. “We have to find a way that suits his energy and fitness.”

Porzingis' presence in the paint also kept Irving and Doncic quiet. The duo, who destroyed their opponents in the postseason in pick-and-rolls by getting 78 goals or layups off their passes, managed just one such play in Game 1.

“This is what he's been doing his whole career. He's a great player. He's been great for us. The reason we're here is because of what he did,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzola said of Porzingis. “What he did for us (in Game 1) was huge and we need that for the rest of the series.”

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Oliver Walton

"Pro alcohol addict. Bacon scholar. Award-winning beer fan. Gamer. Social media expert. Zombie guru."

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