Kristaps Porzingis turns up physicality in Celtics win over Pelicans


Porzingis’s three-pointers weren’t falling, but he still dominated Saturday’s game with his size.

Kristaps Porzingis notched a double-double with four blocks on Saturday. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Kristaps Porzingis wasn’t playing up to his standards in the Celtics’ pair of losses to the Atlanta Hawks earlier in the week. He knew he could reach a different level, and he certainly took a step forward in that direction on Saturday.

His stats don’t particularly jump off the page like some of his other dominant games this season. Just 19 points, a healthy 10 rebounds, and an impact defensively to the tune of four blocks. That line doesn’t fully capture the importance of his night, especially in comparison to the last two games.

On Thursday, Porzingis notched 20 points and seven rebounds, but that was in 41 minutes of action in Boston’s overtime loss. On Monday, he put up 17 and failed to record a single defensive rebound — though he managed five on the offensive glass.

In Saturday’s 104-92 win, Porzingis let the defense come first, and did the dirty work for nearly all of his points.

“Last game, I didn’t play up to my level on all aspects of the game,” Porzingis said. “Even tonight, the three ball wasn’t falling for me. But there are so many ways me and us as a team can impact the game if things aren’t going perfect for us. And that’s what I did tonight, I just turned up another notch.”

Being an ice-cold 1 of 6 from beyond the arc didn’t dissuade Porzingis. He instead hit five 2-point field goals and drew fouls, going 6 for 6 from the charity stripe in the process. The big man wasn’t getting to the line often against the Hawks, attempting just five free throws across those two games.

Porzingis secured all of his rebounds on the defensive end as well, a major change of pace from his stat line on Monday.

Making his presence felt defensively while still finishing second on the Celtics in points on an off night shooting is what makes Porzingis so valuable to Boston’s lineup. And in a game that New Orleans came out of the gate on fire, the Celtics needed Porzingis to help slow the Pelicans down.

“We just knew we couldn’t be in cruise control,” Porzingis said of stopping New Orleans after the first quarter. “These teams are hungry, they need these wins. Maybe we, at this point in the season, don’t need them as much. But still, we want to come out here and compete at a high level every night.

“Once we hit another gear, the game just flipped.”

Porzingis and the Celtics did exactly that, and snapped their two-game skid as a result.

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