Kristaps Porzingis registered 21 points, seven rebounds, and three assists in the Celtics’ 117-94 win over the Raptors Saturday night at TD Garden.
Kristaps Porzingis took on a starring role in Saturday’s 117-94 win over the Toronto Raptors.
His performance made it easy to appreciate how the seven-foot-three center perfectly complements All-NBA wings, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
He’s a knockdown shooter who gives those two and the Boston Celtics’ offense better floor spacing than they’ve had since their star duo arrived. He can also punish switches, and he’s a skilled passer.
There’s also his immense value defensively, including his ability to hold up when switching onto perimeter players, as demonstrated in Friday’s 121-107 win over the Brooklyn Nets.
The Latvian native’s impact as a screener is something fans should monitor all season. In the micro, it’s crucial to Boston’s success per possession. In the macro, it’s vital to the Celtics’ quest for Banner 18.
And in his team’s last two games, Porzingis probably had his best consecutive performances in that area.
It was essential to Brown’s registering 29 points against the Raptors, leading all scorers, and Tatum’s finishing with 27.
The former All-Star’s impact as a screener was also at the root of him feasting on pick-and-rolls against Toronto. That mechanism put the visitors’ center, Jakob Poeltl, in a torture chamber and also seemed unstoppable when the Raptors went small or played Precious Achiuwa at the pivot.
Post-game, head coach Joe Mazzulla conveyed the following to Inside The Celtics about Porzingis punishing Saturday’s opposition in the pick-and-roll.
“First, his screening. He was able to help our pick-and-roll ball handler get some separation away from the screen. And they weren’t veering at first, and so we were able to throw (the ball) back and get into a closeout and create a second-side action. And once they started veering, we were able to get their bigs away from the rim, and that’s where we were able to either give it to him in the post or we were able to drive it without any rim protection.”
Boston’s bench boss also shared what’s blown away his expectations of the former fourth overall draft pick since joining the Celtics’ pursuit of the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
“His open-mindedness towards being coached has way far exceeded my expectations, and his ability to just, ‘What can I do to make our team get better?’
“He’s such a unique player because he has the ability to force two-on-ones in different situations. And so, those screens that he was setting were getting JT and JB and our guys downhill, and that forced them to veer, and that forced them to bring their rim protection away, which allowed us to get 60 points in the paint. And so, there’s an effect there that goes on when guys start doing all those little things. And he’s very open-minded to being coached on that, and we’re grateful for that as well.”