'Burned Inside': Kristaps Porzingis Bounces Back from 'Worst Game as a Celtic'

Apr 27, 2024; Miami, Florida, USA; Boston Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis (8) grabs a rebound over Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo.
Apr 27, 2024; Miami, Florida, USA; Boston Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis (8) grabs a rebound over Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo. / Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

In the Celtics' Game 2 loss to the Heat, Kristaps Porzingis had what he deems his worst game since arriving in Boston.

The seven-foot-three center went 1/9 from the field, 0/4 from beyond the arc, and had a bottom-dwelling minus-32 plus-minus rating.

His struggles sealing off defenders in the low post made entry passes and capitalizing on switches difficult. That and not setting screens effectively enough played a prominent role in many of the Celtics' 13 turnovers as Miami evened the series.

Determined to atone for his rough outing and prove it was a blip on the radar, the Latvian native met the moment on Saturday.

Porzingis played with more force, held his ground, and recaptured his touch, converting on 5/9 field goals, including 3/5 three-point attempts. He paired his 18 points with impactful defense, including two blocks. He also grabbed five rebounds.

After Boston's 104-84 Game 3 win, taking a 2-1 series lead over the Heat, the former All-Star opened up about what the extended layoff from Wednesday to Saturday was like for him.

"It was a long two days," acknowledged Porzingis. "The way it burns inside, after a game like that, after a loss like that, and me probably having my worst game as a Celtic, it really burned inside, I'm not gonna lie. And so, it was a long two days until I get another opportunity, and I made some adjustments and didn't fall too much into their game of this, physical all the time, and that's what they want me to do. So, completely different game today."

Jayson Tatum, who registered 22 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists in the victory, viewed Porzingis' bounce-back performance with the big picture in mind.

"Probably the most important guy on our team for what we're trying to accomplish. No doubt in my mind ‚Äď (I) knew he¬†was going to¬†have a better game and bounce back. Just the way he started¬†out¬†the game on both ends of the floor ‚Äď being active. When he's protecting the rim, contesting shots, we're a¬†whole¬†different team."

Jaylen Brown, who produced 22 points, matching Tatum for a game-high on Saturday, eight rebounds, and three assists, voiced, "Just being aggressive. I don't think he was looking for calls, especially being on the road, and he was embracing that physicality of the game, and he came out with that mindset, and that's what we need him to do every night."

As for Porzingis' head coach, when asked about the difference in the former's approach in Game 2 compared to on Saturday, Joe Mazzulla conveyed, "He took the same amount of shots as he did last game - made four more. It's important that we get him going on both ends of the floor. 

"So, I think just getting him involved is important. Moving him around. He has the ability to create indecision. I thought his rolls were good; they put pressure on the rim. And I thought his pops were good too, because he forced some pockets into two-on-ones.

Mazzulla capped his comments on Porzingis with, "He's going to be involved on both ends. He's a huge impact for us."

Further Reading

Celtics Right the Wrongs of Game 2 to Take 2-1 Lead Over Heat

Kristaps Porzingis Details How Heat Disrupted Him in Game 2: 'I'll Make Sure I'm Better'

Heat's Historic Shooting Leaves Celtics Contemplating: 'We Gotta Respond'

Heat Outmuscle and Outshoot Celtics, Sending Series to Miami Tied at 2

Celtics Bench Stars in Its Role in Game 1 Win vs. Heat: 'An Identity of Our Team'

Jayson Tatum Discusses First-Career Playoff Triple-Double: 'A Beautiful Game'

Celtics Protect the Parquet in Dominant Display in Game 1 vs. Heat

How do the Heat Adapt Without Jimmy Butler? Joe Mazzulla Weighs in

Brad Stevens Addresses Potential Extension with Derrick White

Celtics Embracing Challenge to Go Beyond Most Talented

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Bobby Krivitsky


Bobby Krivitsky's experiences include covering the NBA as a credentialed reporter for Basketball Insiders. He's also a national sports talk host for SportsMap Radio, a network airing on 96 radio stations throughout the country. Additionally, he was a major-market host, update anchor, and producer for IMG Audio, and he worked for Bleacher Report as an NFL and NBA columnist.