Sitting at 24 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists entering the fourth quarter Sunday, Payton Pritchard was tantalizingly close to notching his first career triple-double.
Pritchard knew it. The Celtics on the bench knew it. Everyone inside TD Garden knew it. His teammates didn’t help the cause, missing multiple shots as fans groaned in disappointment.
Eventually, with 7:54 left, Pritchard found JD Davison, who calmly drilled a top-of-the-key 3 to clinch the milestone for his teammate. Pritchard’s 30-point, 14-rebound, 11-assist performance powered the Celtics to a 120-114 win.
He joins Larry Bird and John Havlicek as the only players in franchise history to hit those marks.
THAT'S 30 FOR PP pic.twitter.com/2liExXCtKI— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) April 9, 2023
Mike Muscala added 27 points and 8 rebounds and Sam Hauser 26. Boston finishes the regular season 57-25 – its most wins since 2008-09 – and prepares for the first round, where it will face either the Heat or Hawks.
Derrick White got the start Sunday, to complete his perfect run of 82 games this season, but played just five minutes. With no Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, Marcus Smart or Malcolm Brogdon, it was largely a day for the Celtics reserves to showcase their skills. They didn’t squander it.
Pritchard poured in 18 first-half points, hitting six of his thirteen 3’s and also adding five rebounds and five assists. Hauser scored 12 points, on four 3’s, and chipped in four rebounds and four assists. In the first half alone, the Celtics attempted 30 3’s as a team and made 13.
SAM HAUSER STARTS THE 3RD WITH BACK TO BACK TO BACK 3s pic.twitter.com/V71ROxj4j7— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) April 9, 2023
Late in the second quarter, Vince Carter – sorry, Hauser – tried to keep his dunk streak going. He missed, corralled his own rebound and found Pritchard for 3 to stop a 7-0 Atlanta run. Simple math.
The Hawks shot 51 percent to build a 64-61 halftime advantage, but the Celtics hung around thanks to their steady shooting. Davison attacked the basket, Luke Kornet showed his versatility (his bag is growing by the day) and Justin Champagnie displayed his potential in an extended run.
Hauser splashed three 3’s in the first 1:28 of the second half to put the Celtics ahead, 70-64. Mike Muscala caught fire from there, erupting for 18 points in the third quarter alone. Boston outscored Atlanta, 39-26, in the quarter, taking a 100-90 lead into the fourth.
Mike Muscala with 17 points pic.twitter.com/ScPb8fklo8— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) April 9, 2023
The Celtics continued to rain 3’s in the fourth. Hauser buried a deep one to extend the margin to 115-103 with 3:39 left, and the Hawks ran out of time.