“Payton (Pritchard) needs to get his ass back on defense,” Jaylen Brown joked after his teammate chipped in four points off of offensive rebounds in a 131-112 win over the Denver Nuggets on Friday night.
His night will be highlighted by those hustle plays, but in the second half, he showed that his absence in the rotation so far this season has not been due to a lack of ability or skillset. Boston’s depth has simply crunched Pritchard out of playing time, but the third-year guard has always been poised to sing for the moment.
“I’ve said it to him, I’ve said it to others. No matter what the situation he’s in, when his name gets called, I trust he’s going to be ready to play, I trust he’s going to know the gameplan, I trust he’s going to have a great mindset,” head coach Joe Mazzulla said after Fast PP hit 5-of-6 shots and pulled down four offensive rebounds against the Nuggets. “It’s a compliment to the locker room, that the guys like each other and keep each other engaged and that’s a real compliment to him that regardless of the circumstances, he’s going to execute.”
Pritchard hasn’t seen meaningful floor time in the regular season after being a consistent contributor in the playoffs last year. However, over the last two games, he’s plugged-and-played like a vet.
“Working, going in, doubles, lifting everyday still, playing everyday, going back in at night,” Pritchard said of his readiness to contribute. “I live this. Basketball, I love this stuff. No matter what, I’m going to stay ready. Whatever I get, I’m going to give it my all.”
With Malcolm Brogdon nursing a tight hamstring, Pritchard was the first guard off the bench. When Marcus Smart left early in the third quarter with his fourth foul, it was Pritchard — not Derrick White — that replaced him with the starters. After filling in nicely in the first half with over five minutes of playing time, he doubled his output in the second half when the team needed another ball handler and shooter on the floor.
After the game to NBATV's Matt Winer, Pritchard credited Brogdon for elevating Boston's bench unit offense. His relentless driving paired with shooters like Sam Hauser and Grant Williams and a floor spacing big in Luke Kornet have contributed to a historically dangerous offense -- one that hasn't included Pritchard until recently.
For PP, his biggest flaw might be being good at everything and not great at anything. He's a good shooter, but not on the level of Williams and Hauser. He's a good point guard, but not on par with Brogdon's experience and size. But Pritchard is a baller, a gym rat, a player's player, and on a night when the Celtics needed a little bit of everything, Pritchard did just that.