Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis has confirmed that he will be available for Game 1 of the NBA Finals Thursday night against the Dallas Mavericks. Porzingis missed the Eastern Conference Finals with a calf injury, but Boston still managed to sweep the Pacers in that series.

“I have to feel confident to go out there and leave it all on the floor and expect that I’m going to be healthy and completely fine,” Porzingis said, according to CBS.

Even if he’s not fully healthy, Porzingis’ return to the starting lineup is a massive development for the Celtics, who were already favored to defeat Dallas and win the NBA Championship. Since acquiring Porzingis from the Wizards in a three-way trade last summer, Boston has become the unchallenged top team in the Eastern Conference.

In prior seasons, Boston has built teams around deadly perimeter shooting and solid defense, but the organization has gained a reputation of falling short in big series. With Porzingis on the team alongside stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the Celtics earned a 64-18 regular season record and crushed all opposition in their conference in the playoffs.

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The Mavericks have overcome a difficult path through the Western Conference, relying heavily on star tandem Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving in series wins against the Clippers, Thunder and Timberwolves. The road only gets tougher, however, as Boston likely would have been favored against any team in the Western Conference — with or without Porzingis.

In this modern iteration of the Celtics, the team has only been to the NBA Finals once, in 2021. Led by a younger Tatum, Boston made a solid run that year but ultimately fell to the Golden State Warriors at the very end of their dynastic run.

This time around, there is no old guard. The Celtics have been the undisputed team to beat by any metric all season, and they have played the part to perfection in the postseason so far. With Porzingis returning, the team will be at full strength as it tries to earn a championship some might say is long overdue.

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