Celtics Should Be Fine Without Kristaps Porzingis — For Now

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The Boston Celtics took a critical leap forward toward getting revenge and eliminating the Miami Heat from the NBA playoffs, taking a 3-1 series lead in Game 4 on Monday night — doing so shorthanded in the second half.

Boston’s presumed “missing piece” and golden goose egg of the offseason Kristaps Porzingis cast a dark shadow over the team’s 102-88 victory — quickly taking attention away from the team’s long-lasting double-digit lead throughout regulation. Instead, attention was directed toward the 7-foot-2 Celtics unicorn who limped off the court, clenched the collar of his jersey in pain, and left Kaseya Center sporting a walking boot.

All concerning and all daunting.

However… it’s also a sustainable situation for the Celtics — for the meantime.

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Porzingis suffered what’s been revealed to be a soleus strain, which the Celtics announced on Tuesday evening will rule him out for Game 5. Miami has already announced that guards Terry Rozier (neck) and Jaime Jaquez Jr. (right hip flexor strain) will be out, so Boston will be facing an even more undermanned Heat team that’s missed out on Jimmy Butler from the start of the series.

Therefore, the Celtics shouldn’t have any issue doing exactly what they did in their two-game trip to Miami: take care of business.

“Our mindset has to shift,” Al Horford told reporters postgame, per CLNS Media. “Specifically, me and myself, I talked to Luke (Kornet), I talked to Xavier (Tillman Sr.), and just kind of letting them know that we have to be ready to step up and do a little bit more.”

Porzingis has donned the mantle of Boston’s No. 1 numerous times throughout the regular season, scoring 30-plus points six times with the Celtics — two of which were double-doubles. But while Porzingis received medical care at Kaseya Center, guard Derrick White picked up the slack, scoring a career-high 38 points while draining eight 3-pointers and totaling three blocks on the other end of the floor.

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White’s heroic call to action didn’t just make up for Porzingis’ departure, but also for Jaylen Brown’s game-high six turnovers and the absent contributions of Payton Pritchard and Sam Hauser — who combined to score zero points.

“Every game I kind of have the same mindset of just trying to be aggressive and reading what the game is telling you,” White explained, per CLNS Media. “Do not force anything, just do what I need to do, and I think a couple of good looks early. And then my team did a great job of just finding me and just empowering me to stay aggressive.”

The Celtics have proven themselves in a handful of ways; from perimeter defense to perimeter shooting to late-game lead protection, but within that laundry list sits their depth. If a starter (or two) isn’t available, Boston hasn’t buckled under the pressure of leaning on someone else. So considering Miami barely snuck into the playoffs and is hobbling on its last leg, that shouldn’t change once Game 5 begins.

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Assuming the Celtics don’t fall victim to their bad habits — lousy defense, content demeanor, and a lackluster killer instinct — the Heat should be booking their offseason vacation plans.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Eastern Conference isn’t posing many major threats either.

The Bucks are navigating the injuries to Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard while trailing the Pacers, who aren’t a great defensive unit, 1-3 in their first-round series. Milwaukee is also coached by Doc Rivers which should never be overlooked. The Knicks are gritty but also shorthanded, having lost Julius Randle for the season. The Cavaliers don’t have the star power to match the Celtics, nor do the Magic, and the Sixers are in turmoil.

Yet again, it’s Boston’s time to shine — or at least it should be.

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