BOSTON — When Celtics star Kristaps Porzingis returned for Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night, it was expected he would slide right back into his usual starting spot.

But for just the second time in his career, and first time this season, Porzingis surprisingly came off the bench.

It didn’t make a difference, though.

Porzingis, who had been out for over five weeks due to a calf injury he sustained in the first round, made a massive impact in 21 minutes off the bench to ignite the Celtics to a 107-89 win over the Dallas Mavericks at TD Garden. Porzingis finished with 20 points on 8-for-13 shooting to go along with six rebounds and three blocks.

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“From day one I came here and I said I’ll do whatever it takes to help this team win,” Porzingis said. “This situation it made sense. I didn’t care. I knew I could prepare to come off the bench, which is something different for me, and that’s what I did. And stepped into that role and embraced it and had a good game.”

Porzingis checked into the game for the first time with 7:17 left in the first quarter and Celtics fans giving him a thunderous ovation.

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The 7-foot-2 center gave them more to cheer about and almost immediately, too. Porzingis hit 4-of-5 shots once he came in to score 11 points in the first quarter while also providing two blocks before the frame closed. He even scored eight straight points for the Celtics to spark a 15-2 run, which gave Boston a 37-20 lead after 12 minutes — it was the largest advantage at the end of the first quarter in Finals history.

It’s unclear whether the Celtics will keep having Porzingis come off the bench for the rest of the series or did so just for Game 1 to help Porzingis get reacclimated. Either way, Porzingis is good with whatever role he gets.

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“We had a conversation and (Mazzulla) just came up to me,” Porzingis said. “I know he knew I was going to be fine with whatever. He just told me, ‘What do you think about this?’ And I said, ‘Of course, I could do it.’ And that’s it. It wasn’t no big deal and I trust Joe and he trusts me.”

Featured image via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images