Payton Pritchard: Season Savior

Kenny F'ing Powers

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We've seen it happen before. Special moments in a season where something just...changes. Fragments in time that, only with the benefit of hindsight, predict a precursor to something greater. A pair of blue lips being flattened by a catchers mitt. The brothers of a blue collar Patriot linemen being honored as the heroes the country needed. An unfairly injured Bruins winger pouring dirty, Boston water onto pristine game 7 ice.

The green jerseys rallying around the unlikeliest of Warriors.

View: https://youtu.be/iHftqFjQTiw?t=46


This deep into a season of struggles, Pritchard manufactured a night to remember. Over a three-minute stretch near the end of the fourth quarter, he scored 16 points, including four 3-pointers. First, he drove to the cup for a left-handed finish. Then, he pulled up for a long 3 from the top of the key. Once he started to feel it, he grew even more ambitious with his attempts. Early in the shot clock, he crossed over from right to left, then drilled a stepback triple over the top of a defender. By the time that attempt went in, the crowd started to recognize it was witnessing something neat. A man wearing a Pritchard jersey stood up and screamed from the bottom of his heart.

...

After making two consecutive 3-pointers, he dribbled between his back twice on the next Celtics possession, then unleashed a twisting fadeaway from deep in the right corner. When the ball went in, the Celtics bench went mad. Robert Williams raced down the baseline, waving a towel as he ran. Enes Freedom threw both of his arms in the air while hopping in front of the Celtics bench. Even Al Horford, normally more composed, pumped his fist and charged in Freedom’s direction...

By the time Pritchard tried his next long shot, the Celtics were already holding themselves back in front of the bench...

Pritchard took two dribbles backward, then another toward his defender. With a sharp crossover, he created enough space to launch a 31-foot 3-pointer. After releasing the jumper, Pritchard posed with his right hand up until the ball curled down through the rim. The atmosphere felt more like a playoff setting than the end of an otherwise nondescript blowout. Pritchard’s teammates reacted like they had seen the most impressive highlight of all time.
Teams mockingly celebrate bench guys that heat up on a frequent basis. Celtics fans have rattled the cages during the waning minutes of a blowout in the hopes of seeing the have-nots like Pervis Ellison and Tacko Fall put on the clown makeup and entertain them before leaving the circus.

Thats not what this was.

The Celtics have been fragmented. Disjointed. Uneven. Their coach has been calling out their top players who, in turn, seem to shrug off any interest in carrying the torch from previous Celtics greats. Do these guys care? Do they even like each other? Theres no doubt now, thanks to an unlikely hero putting on a show for his west-coast, hometown crowd.

The crowd had developed a buzz unlike anything Schröder had heard so late in a blowout NBA game. “This one was special,” Schröder said. "I think Jayson Tatum, I think he mentioned that everybody in this locker room, they work, try to get better. And everybody tries to help the team win. To see that paying off like that, getting hot in that fourth quarter, means a lot for me and my teammates for sure.”
Let it be known! I proclaim for all to hear: Today is the day we will remember as the turning point for the 2021 Boston Celtics.

And we can thank Payton Pritchard. The Season Savior.
 
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bohous

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Earlier in the game I recall Portland got back to within single digits after being down something like 21. I remember thinking to myself that it seemed like the Celtics lose ground every time Pritchard was on the floor, and it bummed me out because I love PP. I actually missed the end of the game but this was awesome, even if it was garbage time.
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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The Celtics have been fragmented. Disjointed. Uneven. Their coach has been calling out their top players who, in turn, seem to shrug off any interest in carrying the torch from previous Celtics greats. Do these guys care? Do they even like each other? Theres no doubt now, thanks to an unlikely hero putting on a show for his west-coast, hometown crowd.
Neat narrative but a team that is fragmented, disjointed, and uneven doesn't play defense like the Cs have done over the, what, last 15 games?
 

luckiestman

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Earlier in the game I recall Portland got back to within single digits after being down something like 21. I remember thinking to myself that it seemed like the Celtics lose ground every time Pritchard was on the floor, and it bummed me out because I love PP. I actually missed the end of the game but this was awesome, even if it was garbage time.
That was on 41 not 8Mile
 

HomeRunBaker

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Neat narrative but a team that is fragmented, disjointed, and uneven doesn't play defense like the Cs have done over the, what, last 15 games?
It’s an interesting group for sure. Playing their asses off defensively, have a bunch of talented players…….and are 13-11 sitting as an 8-seed. I still see us doing very well on this road trip.
 

lovegtm

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It’s an interesting group for sure. Playing their asses off defensively, have a bunch of talented players…….and are 13-11 sitting as an 8-seed. I still see us doing very well on this road trip.
tbf, the "playing their asses off defensively" part only started once they were 2-5. The recent record is probably more representative of who they are, but that comes with the caveat that "who they are" is also not very good offensively. Gun to my head, they feel like a grindy 4-6 seed that only gets to the 2nd round if the 1st round matchup is favorable.
 

Eddie Jurak

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tbf, the "playing their asses off defensively" part only started once they were 2-5. The recent record is probably more representative of who they are, but that comes with the caveat that "who they are" is also not very good offensively. Gun to my head, they feel like a grindy 4-6 seed that only gets to the 2nd round if the 1st round matchup is favorable.
I think this view is on the pessimistic side. Tatum has struggled mightily during most of the season including most of the 11-6 run, yet is now showing signs of turning it around. They have played most of the season without a healthy Brown - although who knows if that will change. I think it is a mistake to assume their offense can't improve from here.
 

lovegtm

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I think this view is on the pessimistic side. Tatum has struggled mightily during most of the season including most of the 11-6 run, yet is now showing signs of turning it around. They have played most of the season without a healthy Brown - although who knows if that will change. I think it is a mistake to assume their offense can't improve from here.
I'm trying to temper my natural Celtics optimism :)

The bull case for this team, without adding a star, is:
- they keep playing hard defensively
- Brown is healthy and a good scorer
- Tatum re-finds his 3-point stroke while continuing to improve as a playmaker
- they find 1-2 elite shooters via trade or internal development

It's not a crazy list, but I'm going to curb my enthusiasm and wait until stuff beyond the "defense" part actually happens.
 

Cesar Crespo

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I think this view is on the pessimistic side. Tatum has struggled mightily during most of the season including most of the 11-6 run, yet is now showing signs of turning it around. They have played most of the season without a healthy Brown - although who knows if that will change. I think it is a mistake to assume their offense can't improve from here.
That 11-6 run is also a 7-5 run. It's using the best possible cut off to make the C's look as good as possible.

We can't ignore their start, it happened. Just like we can't ignore the 4-1 stretch before the 7-5 run. This is how .500 teams play. We'll see if the continue at their "11-6" pace or the 13-11 is who they are.
 

RorschachsMask

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They are 7th in net rating on CTG, and we are getting to the point where they hold more weight. They have the net rating of a high 40s/50 win team. But part of that is they need to execute better late in close games.

Tatum getting back to the 60%+ TS guy from crunch time of the previous two years will make a huge difference with that.
 
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Devizier

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The other bull case for the Celtics is that there is one team in the league that has been absolutely dominant (Golden State), two teams that have been very good (Phoenix and Utah), and a lot of teams that have not been much better than the Celtics. I guess that could also be a bear case, since they aren't really in the Warriors' league right now.
 

128

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The other bull case for the Celtics is that there is one team in the league that has been absolutely dominant (Golden State), two teams that have been very good (Phoenix and Utah), and a lot of teams that have not been much better than the Celtics. I guess that could also be a bear case, since they aren't really in the Warriors' league right now.
Bucks have won 9 of 10 and are getting healthy. I'd put them in the Very Good category, along with Brooklyn (and PHX and Utah).
 

Cesar Crespo

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Bucks have won 9 of 10 and are getting healthy. I'd put them in the Very Good category, along with Brooklyn (and PHX and Utah).
Chicago is really good too, though I can see why people might be slow to jump on board.
 

HomeRunBaker

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Chicago is really good too, though I can see why people might be slow to jump on board.
Chicago’s problem is going to be their lack of depth as the season drags on and they begin losing some key pieces. If they can remain healthy for the duration of the year this is a good team.

If the Celtics continue building their defensive identity similar to the Knicks last season and Tatum/Schroder remain healthy I wouldn’t cap this team as a 2nd round out. The talent is there. I wasn’t high on Ime bringing it together but I’m seeing the buy-in and Tatum’s start to the season isn’t something that we have to worry about long term. Let’s go sweep this road trip from here on out and see how people’s opinions will change……mine is beginning to change already.
 

Cesar Crespo

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Chicago’s problem is going to be their lack of depth as the season drags on and they begin losing some key pieces. If they can remain healthy for the duration of the year this is a good team.

If the Celtics continue building their defensive identity similar to the Knicks last season and Tatum/Schroder remain healthy I wouldn’t cap this team as a 2nd round out. The talent is there. I wasn’t high on Ime bringing it together but I’m seeing the buy-in and Tatum’s start to the season isn’t something that we have to worry about long term. Let’s go sweep this road trip from here on out and see how people’s opinions will change……mine is beginning to change already.
Gonna take me awhile, they've gone on good runs before. Last year's team started 8-3 and Tatum/Brown both looked like top 10-15 players in the early going. Next thing you know, they are 15-17. Then 20-18. At 25-26, everyone was writing them off. Then they went on a 6 game winning steak and all the way to the 4 seed at 31-26. Then they finish the year 5-10. Injuries and such but this team has been terribly inconsistent for awhile now. They go on good runs, but they also go on bad runs. I think people are too quick to dismiss the 2-5 start just because it came at the beginning of the year. This team has proven time and time again, they can play awful or great for 5+ game stretches.

If they are like 24-17 or 25-16 at the half way point, I may start believing. Then again, my high total for the team was 46 wins and given their 13-11 start, they'd have to go 33-25 the rest of the way, which works out to a 46.6 win total over 82 games. At their current pace, they are in line for 44.4.

A negative person could also say the C's are 3-3 over their last 6, 7-5 over their last 12, 11-6 over their last 17. They are trending the wrong way. But if they continue to play at an 11-6 pace the rest of the year, they will win 50.5 games. Over 82 games, an 11-6 pace is 53.1.

There are also very few bad teams this year. Teams will be beating up on each other so 46 wins could be a 4 seed. The 4 seed right now is on pace for 45.9. The 10th seed is on pace for 42.6.
 

HomeRunBaker

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Gonna take me awhile, they've gone on good runs before. Last year's team started 8-3 and Tatum/Brown both looked like top 10-15 players in the early going. Next thing you know, they are 15-17. Then 20-18. At 25-26, everyone was writing them off. Then they went on a 6 game winning steak and all the way to the 4 seed at 31-26. Then they finish the year 5-10. Injuries and such but this team has been terribly inconsistent for awhile now. They go on good runs, but they also go on bad runs. I think people are too quick to dismiss the 2-5 start just because it came at the beginning of the year. This team has proven time and time again, they can play awful or great for 5+ game stretches.

If they are like 24-17 or 25-16 at the half way point, I may start believing. Then again, my high total for the team was 46 wins and given their 13-11 start, they'd have to go 33-25 the rest of the way, which works out to a 46.6 win total over 82 games. At their current pace, they are in line for 44.4.

A negative person could also say the C's are 3-3 over their last 6, 7-5 over their last 12, 11-6 over their last 17. They are trending the wrong way. But if they continue to play at an 11-6 pace the rest of the year, they will win 50.5 games. Over 82 games, an 11-6 pace is 53.1.

There are also very few bad teams this year. Teams will be beating up on each other so 46 wins could be a 4 seed. The 4 seed right now is on pace for 45.9. The 10th seed is on pace for 42.6.
The 2-5 start was before this was “Schroders Team” as Smart was trying to figure out how to change his game to be a PG. Now that both have settled in that 7-game stretch to begin the year shouldn’t have any bearing on what this team is moving forward.
 

RorschachsMask

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The 2-5 start was before this was “Schroders Team” as Smart was trying to figure out how to change his game to be a PG. Now that both have settled in that 7-game stretch to begin the year shouldn’t have any bearing on what this team is moving forward.
I’m not sure that’s really the case, 7 of Smart’s 9 lowest assist rate games of the year were during the 2-5 start. 6 of Schroder’s 8 highest assist rate games were during the 2-5 start.

If anything, since then they’ve used Schroder more of a scorer, and Smart as the facilitator. Over the last 15 games, Smart is averaging 11.7 potential assists per game, Tatum is next at 8.7, and Schroder is at 8.1.

Dennis certainly has the higher usage, but I think he’s been much more of a gunner than facilitator.
 

HomeRunBaker

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I’m not sure that’s really the case, 7 of Smart’s 9 lowest assist rate games of the year were during the 2-5 start. 6 of Schroder’s 8 highest assist rate games were during the 2-5 start.

If anything, since then they’ve used Schroder more of a scorer, and Smart as the facilitator. Over the last 15 games, Smart is averaging 11.7 potential assists per game, Tatum is next at 8.7, and Schroder is at 8.1.

Dennis certainly has the higher usage, but I think he’s been much more of a gunner than facilitator.
What do raw assist numbers have to do with overall performance? I agree with the ball in Schroders hands being aggressive has greatly benefitted this team. Smart benefits greatly by playing with Schroder as they really complement each other well where Marcus doesn’t have to be the primary ball handler.
 
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Light-Tower-Power

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Just when you thought they might’ve turned a corner on the back of Payton Pritchard and the Blazers “defense”, they’re going to be *checks schedule*…three games under .500 by next Saturday. This team continues to be allergic to sustained periods of good basketball.
 

Cesar Crespo

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Just when you thought they might’ve turned a corner on the back of Payton Pritchard and the Blazers “defense”, they’re going to be *checks schedule*…three games under .500 by next Saturday. This team continues to be allergic to sustained periods of good basketball.
Yeah, they go on 5-10 game stretches of good or horrible. Just like every .500 team.
 

HomeRunBaker

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Two games ago you were all optimistic about the C's and this road trip.

Me too.
I know. My blow it up was mostly tongue in cheek based off my optimism of 48 hours ago. I’ve seen this movie too many times to have been fooled like this…….blow it up!!!