The Boston Celtics couldn’t have asked for a much better start to the season. They currently lay claim to the best record in the NBA at 35-12 and have won nine games in a row. But it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows for everyone on the roster.
Payton Pritchard was an integral member of Boston’s rotation during his rookie season, and in his sophomore year with the team, he worked hard to earn that spot back. So far this year, he hasn’t had the same luck. But despite failing to earn consistent minutes, he’s stayed ready, and when his number was called against the Toronto Raptors, he answered yet again.
“I’m happy for Payton,” head coach Joe Mazzulla told Souichi Terada of MassLive. “This league can be unforgiving at times. You have to be strong-minded, you got to work hard, you got to be patient. Payton’s all of those things. I’ve always told him, whenever it’s his time, I trust him completely. He was great tonight.”
Boston walked into their Friday night contest against Toronto without Jayson Tatum, and coming out of halftime, they were missing Marcus Smart and Robert Williams, too. This provided Pritchard with a huge opportunity, and he made the most of it.
He logged 25:53 of court time and absolutely lit up the Raptors. The 25-year-old guard ended the night with 12 points, two rebounds, and two assists off the bench, shooting 4-of-7 from the field, all of which were three-point attempts. And while that stat line is impressive on its own, it was the timing of his buckets that stood out.
Six of Pritchard’s seven three-point attempts came in the fourth quarter alone, including all four of his makes.
Toronto was up by as many as 11 points in the third quarter, but by the fourth, Boston had taken a lead and was desperately attempting to fend off the scrappy Raptors. With Smart, Tatum, and Williams sidelined, Pritchard gave them the boost they needed to do just that.
Pritchard’s biggest moment came with roughly 1:30 to go in the fourth. The game was tied at 103-103, and Jaylen Brown controlled the ball at the top of the key. Grant Williams and Pritchard set screens for him before Pritchard leaked out to the wing. Brown dished him the ball, and he nailed the shot, giving the Celtics a three-point lead. Those were Boston’s final points of the contest.
With the ever-changing role Pritchard has been and is going to be forced to play on this Celtics team, having the right attitude and level of toughness is crucial. And according to Pritchard, that toughness is the main reason he’s gotten to where he is.
“We’re a bunch of tough dudes and, for me, I wouldn’t be in the position I am today without having a tough mindset,” Pritchard told Terada. “A lot of people look at me and I’m (a) 6-foot-1 white American guard, a lot of us aren’t there. So we gotta be tough and bring it every day.”