The Boston Celtics have reached the Eastern Conference Finals for the fourth time in five seasons, and they were able to do so without complete health. Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis suffered a right soleus strain in Game 4 of the first round and hasn't returned since.

This calf injury has caused Porzingis to miss six playoff games thus far, yet the Celtics have gone 5-1 in that span. The banged-up Miami Heat didn't offer much of a challenge in the opening round and although the C's would've loved to have Porzingis against the Cleveland Cavaliers, they didn't need him. Boston defeated the Cavs, who ended up having injury issues of their own, in five games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

While there's no guarantee the Latvian big man will return for the Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers, things seem to be moving in the right direction. Celtics star Jaylen Brown was especially optimistic about Porzingis' time off, per Celtics CLNS reporter Josue Pavón.

“KP’s been great,” Brown told the media during a Monday afternoon press conference. “Still very active. Been at every practice, making sure he’s still involved in every team huddle & just staying in the mix mentally even though physically he’s not fully there yet mentally he’s been engaged—that’s a great sign.”

Since Porzingis came to Boston earlier this season, he's bonded well with Brown. Brown, Porzingis, and fellow star Jayson Tatum formed a potent offensive trio that guided the C's to the best overall record in the NBA.

Porzingis has averaged 12.3 points and five rebounds through four playoff outings while Brown has started all 10 of the Green Team's postseason games, putting up 23.1 points and 6.1 rebounds on average. Meanwhile, Tatum leads the Celtics in the 2024 playoffs with 24.3 points and 10.4 rebounds per game.

Will Kristaps Porzingis play in the Eastern Conference Finals?

Boston Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis (8) warms-up before game three of the first round for the 2024 NBA playoffs against the Miami Heat at Kaseya Center.
Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

There wasn't much being said about Porzingis' timeline until a “Woj bomb,” courtesy of ESPN insider Adrian Wojnarowski, dropped on Friday night.

“Boston Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis is expected to remain sidelined for Games 1 and 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, but there is optimism he will be able to return sometime in the series barring any setbacks,” Wojnarowski wrote.

Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals is in Boston on Tuesday night, but that never seemed like a realistic return date for the 7-foot-3 center. Game 2 will be shortly after on Thursday evening.

Following the pair of Boston home games, the series will head to Indiana for Games 3 and 4. One of these two contests might be circled on Porzingis' calendar, as he hasn't been ruled out for either.

However, if Boston is able to go up 2-0 to start the semifinal series, it's hard to imagine him rushing back to play. Keep in mind that Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo sustained a left soleus strain before the playoffs began and he didn't take the court for one minute in the postseason.

Having Porzingis back would be a huge boon for the Celtics, yet they don't want to risk further injury if they don't have to. A two-game series deficit might be the only thing that speeds up his timeline, and even that's not a guarantee.

Regardless of Porzingis' health, the Celtics will have their hands full with a talented, fast-paced Indiana offense. The Pacers shot a blistering 67.1% from the field in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the New York Knicks. That was enough to set an NBA playoff record and garner a 130-109 victory victory in a hostile environment.

During the 2023-24 regular season, the Celtics boasted the top offensive rating in the league while the Pacers were close behind with the second-best offensive rating. While Boston's defense has been better for the majority of the season, Indiana has shown how dangerous its speed and depth are on both ends of the floor.

Game 1, which tips off on Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET, should be a good test for both teams. The Celtics will try to assert their dominance at home without Porzingis while the Pacers will try to prove they belong in the elite of the Eastern Conference.