1. What a fun day to wrap the regular season. The Boston Celtics beat the Atlanta Hawks to finish with 57 wins, which is the most they’ve had since 2009. Boston also accomplished all of their goals for a meaningless finale.
Derrick White made a cameo appearance and became the only Celtic to appear in all 82 games. Blake Griffin and Grant Williams also got in a little run. And that was it for the rotation regulars.
The deeper reserves got their shot and showed out. Payton Pritchard and Mike Muscala both set career-highs in scoring. Sam Hauser equaled his career-high in points and set a career-high in assists. Pritchard recorded the first triple-double of his career, while making some Celtics history.
It was a fun finale indeed. Let’s dive in.
2. At worst, Payton Pritchard is a high-end backup point guard. At worst. He might even be a solid starter, especially on a team with a second ballhandler/playmaker, who Pritchard could play off of plenty. Whenever he’s given a real opportunity, Pritchard makes the most of it. Those are just few and far between with the Celtics depth at the guard position.
This game was another good example of Pritchard making things happen. He got started by going wide around the handoff from Blake Griffin for the triple:
We aren’t crazy enough to suggest Pritchard is at the same level as Stephen Curry or Trae Young. He’s not. But we will say you better pick him up as soon as he crosses halfcourt. Pritchard possesses the same ability to pull from deep off the bounce as the All-Stars do:
We’ve seen Pritchard do a lot of scoring, but to be more than just a backup shooter, he has to be a playmaker. This is a very simple, but effective read here. Pritchard sees Sam Hauser’s man has drifted just a bit too far away and the pass is there:
We invoked Curry and Young earlier and one of the things that makes them such tough covers is that they never stop moving. This is a good relocation by Pritchard after the drive-and-kick:
Here’s some more of that playmaking. Pritchard gets into the paint to draw the defense before pitching it back out to Hauser:
Boston is playing for the 2-for-1 here. When Aaron Holiday drops about a half-step too far, Pritchard pulls it from 30 feet:
This was the assist that got Pritchard the first triple-double of his career. It’s another simple, but effective read. And it’s great to see JD Davison pull this shot with such confidence too:
One more pullup for Pritchard to get to his career-high of 30 points:
That last jumper put Pritchard in some VERY lofty company in Celtics history. He joined Larry Bird and John Havlicek as the only Boston players to record at least 30 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists in a single game.
Have a day Payton Pritchard!
3. Mike Muscala also set a new career-high with 27 points. 18 of those points came in the third quarter when Muscala was deep in the zone.
We should have known something special was brewing when Muscala hit this well-contested corner three and did the little hop after:
On the next trip, some gorgeous ball movement finished with Muscala dunking it home:
We don’t know what Muscala’s role will be in the playoffs, but he’s shown Joe Mazzulla enough that he can be trusted to take the floor when Boston needs him to.
4. Sam Hauser hit eight three-pointers and equaled his career-high with 26 points. But Hauser also grabbed five rebounds and set a career-high with six assists. He’s rounding his game nicely now.
And Hauser keeps making defensive plays like this with regularity too:
And this lefty off-the-dribble pass was just beautiful stuff:
5. JD Davison got his most extensive run, and he showed why the Celtics are high on him. We already showed you him confidently stepping into a three. That’s a shot he needs to make to stick at the NBA level.
This is another shot Davison would do well to add to his repertoire too. He gets good lift, and the form looks solid. A summer of work will only refine shots like this more:
And Davison is already arguably the best lob-thrower on the team:
This is a big summer for Davison. If Boston frees up that third/fourth guard spot, he’ll be in the running to snag it. Don’t be surprised if things start with Davison on a second two-way deal, but with a strong Summer League and training camp, he could find himself on the regular roster for next season.
6. We always show you a new Celtic’s first bucket in green and white. Welcome to the scorebook, Justin Champagnie!
Champagnie showed some passing chops too. This is a good, quick decision to get Luke Kornet this dunk:
7. Mfiondu Kabengele played great in the G League this season. That sets up a big summer for him. We know he can do stuff like this:
The next step is for Kabengele to slow things down. He rushed a couple of good looks from behind the arc and he’s a hot-potato passer. But there’s potential there. The Celtics would love a chance to keep working with him this offseason.
8. No clips here, as he showed up in some others already, but let’s appreciate Luke Kornet. He got tabbed with the “UniKornet” moniker when he was with the Knicks, because he was a big who mostly shot three-pointers.
In his time with Boston, Kornet has reinvented himself as mostly an interior player. He’s a solid shot-blocker and a better-than-you-realize finisher around the rim. Joe Mazzulla clearly trusts him to fill in when he’s called upon.
Kornet is also a favorite in Boston’s locker room. He’s a beloved teammate because of his work ethic and humility. That goes a long way too.
9. Related to the above…the vibes around the Celtics are immaculate. They are as healthy as they’ve been all season. And this group really loves playing together. Go back and look at the clips above. After each one, if the bench is visible, you can see them having a great time celebrating their teammates.
To win a title, you have to be good. That’s first and foremost. But there needs to be love and trust too. And these Celtics have love for and trust in one another in abundance.
10. Next time, it’s for real.
The Celtics will start their Banner 18 run on Saturday afternoon at 3:30 PM ET against either the Miami Heat or Atlanta Hawks. We’ll know the opponent after the Heat host the Hawks in the 7-8 Play-In Tournament game on Tuesday night at 7:30 PM ET.
Stay tuned to CelticsBlog for all the playoffs coverage you could ask for. It’s beyond time to hang another banner and this is the group that’s going to do it.
This is just a thank you to all the faithful readers of the Takeaways. This is the first time in six seasons of doing the Takeaways that I wrote all 82 of them for the regular season. I made that my goal, and I’m happy to have accomplished it.
Now, we hope we’ll write up at least 16 more victory versions of the Takeaways over the next couple of months! Thanks as always for reading, sharing and commenting. Let’s go get Banner 18!