Getty Images

Kristaps Porzingis played an enormous role in the Boston Celtics' first two wins of the 2024 NBA Finals, and, after he suffered a rare lower leg injury -- he tore his medial retinaculum and dislocated his posterior tibialis tendon in his left leg, the team announced -- the Celtics managed to take a 3-0 lead in the series without him. In theory, the win bought Boston time: Given that it only has to win one of the next four games against the Dallas Mavericks to clinch the championship, it can afford to take a more cautious approach with Porzingis.

Despite this, Porzingis is available to play in Game 4 on Friday, Celtics coach Joe Mazzula told reporters on Friday. He will not necessarily play, however. 

Porzingis is "not quite there, but we're going to make him available," Mazzulla said. "But we're going to use him in very specific instances, if necessary." 

When asked to elaborate, he Mazzulla simply repeated himself.

On Thursday, Mazzulla told reporters that what's happening in the series will not affect how the Celtics manage Porzingis' injury in any way.

"No, I think that's a rather passive way to look at things," Mazzulla said. "I think, at the end of the day, we have to continue to do what we do. Kristaps has gotten better from yesterday to today. He's fighting like hell to play, but it's going to be up to us to protect him and to make sure that it's in the best interest for him as a player and a person. And none of that -- going into what's best for a player and a person has nothing to do with where we're at from a basketball standpoint."

At shootaround on Friday, Mazzulla told reporters that Porzingis would test his leg before Game 4 and the team would "see how he feels," via WEEI.

On Tuesday, the last time Porzingis talked to reporters, he said he would "do everything I can to be out there," but Boston's medical staff would ultimately make the decision. Shortly before Wednesday's game, Mazzulla said that the medical staff had "watched him kind of go through some testing," and "he didn't look right," so he had to sit.

As Porzingis showed earlier in this series, his deep range, rim protection and ability to punish mismatches gives the Celtics a dynamic they don't have with anybody else in the middle. They've been without him for most of this playoff run, though, and they got good minutes from Xavier Tillman off the bench in Game 3. Even though he's not expected to play much on Friday, the team should still be confident that it can get the job done.

Looking for more NBA coverage? John Gonzalez, Bill Reiter, Ashley Nicole Moss and special guests dive deep into the league's biggest storylines daily on the Beyond the Arc podcast.