Kristaps Porzingis taking a shot in the First Game of the 2024 NBA Finals - © Getty Images

Latvia announced, hesitantly due to the injuries KP has suffered this year, the addition of its star to the pre-list to win the OQT in Riga, but they are already rubbing their hands as the big man’s performance exploded the opening game of the 2024 NBA Finals.

Kristaps Porzingis, who has been averaging great numbers, intermittently due to his irregular physical condition (20.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per game during his 57 Regular Season games), left the fourth game against the Heat on 29 April due to a calf strain. Thirty eight days had passed since then. In gross terms, a little more than a month. In NBA terms, two playoff rounds.

Far from being diminished by his lack of continuity this year (he has missed 25 RS games and 10 Playoff games), his titanic return caused a real dilemma for his former team, the Dallas Mavericks, on both ends of the court, in order to check off Boston's box in this series, 1-0.

Doncic and Porzingis sharing thoughts during the 2021 NBA Season - © Getty Images
Doncic and Porzingis sharing thoughts during the 2021 NBA Season - © Getty Images

Skills everywhere

Porzingis made his first NBA Finals game a night to remember. His numbers weren't anything out of the ordinary either (20 points, 6 rebounds, 62% FG and 3 blocks). However, his dominance, his inactivity, and the fact that he recorded those numbers in just 21 minutes on the court make it even more special.

The Latvian forward came off the bench in his first game since he was injured. Celtic coach Joe Mazzulla didn't want to force his main asset in the paint, and that was how it was planned.

The rest is history. Porzingis came out with special energy, causing the gap that took place at the end of the first quarter, which would set the pace of the rest of the game after a spectacular run by the home team with KP's wrist on fire. Nonchalant. As if he didn't have any discomfort or lack of rhythm.

A score of 37-20 was on the board at the beginning of the second quarter. Porzingis' volcanic streak didn't stop. He shot from eight meters, made impossible blocks, and created a heavy disadvantage in the Mavericks’ paint, to the point that Celtics’ Derrick White, aware of the Latvian's skills in training, said in the post-match press conference that "matching him in defense is a nightmare." Though, no wonder a 7' 2" body of pure talent, strength and elegance.

Personal vindication

When asked during this week leading up to the start of the finals if he was 100 percent recovered from the injury, Porzingis seemed a little hesitant. Everything was still to be seen.

"Obviously, it wasn't ideal that I was out for so long," Porzingis said after the resounding 107-89 win over Dallas in the first game at the TD Garden in Boston.

Though after proving himself on the most important stage of the season, any hint of doubt was dispelled. Mazzulla, claimed before the clash that he wanted to see his European giant "play hard." And so it was, a tsunami of confidence and adrenaline from KP that sank his former teammate Doncic, Irving and his boys.

"Today was a reaffirmation for me that I am quite good. "Maybe I'm not perfect, but I'm very good, I can play like this and give something extra to this team," were the most striking words of absolute relief from the European giant, a key factor for the Celtics to get one step closer to the trophy.

Latvia on Porzingis' radar... and Luka's too?

While yesterday it was explained that Doncic was once again swearing loyalty to his homeland, Slovenia confirmed its willingness to participate in the OQT, and Porzingis was not going to be any less.

The Slovenian and Latvian relationship is difficult. After a brief period as teammates, a stormy union that did not work in Dallas between the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2022, both have a rivalry ahead of them that is set to be historic if injuries respect them.

First of all, they face each other in their first NBA Finals, but beyond that, both are leaders of two of the most powerful emerging teams on the old continent, and they aim to win a medal this summer in the Paris Olympics’ 2024, after passing through the OQT, where the almighty Greek Freak Giannis Antetokounmpo will also be.

Indeed, they do not coincide in the same group either. If they win their qualification, Slovenia would end up in the dark group A with Canada, Australia and possibly Spain. Porzingis plays at home against Brazil, its main opponent, and has the option of being part of the Olympics in Group B with France, Germany and Japan. 

Who knows, if they make it through… Latvia and Slovenia would have a knockout match… Fate is capricious, and even more so considering that the ring would be on the finger of one of them, while the other would seek revenge at all costs…