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!!!
 

lovegtm

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I like that, as soon as he had White & Smart to rotate at point, Ime went straight to PP as a small shooting guard, which is wayyy better for him than the point. Would be nice to see him get 10-15 mins/game in that role, since he's proven he can shoot it, and shouldn't be as much of a defensive liability in these types of lineups, when you can pick his matchups.
 

Eddie Jurak

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I like that, as soon as he had White & Smart to rotate at point, Ime went straight to PP as a small shooting guard, which is wayyy better for him than the point. Would be nice to see him get 10-15 mins/game in that role, since he's proven he can shoot it, and shouldn't be as much of a defensive liability in these types of lineups, when you can pick his matchups.
He really struggled in the game though, shooting 1 for 6, although the last shot he hit was his most difficult and clutch shot - from trapped in the corner to an exchange with Al leading to a late-clock step back above the break 3 to stop a Nugget run.
View: https://twitter.com/Aidan_Maher17/status/1492325448931549184?s=20&t=W0m1dipGp47yFINec2-GYw
 

NomarsFool

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It was a big shot, no doubt. I didn’t like having out there with BOTH White and Smart - I thought that was an odd choice. Unfortunately, with White it just further emphasizes the downgrade on defense when PP is on the floor. But, I do agree he should be able to find double digit minutes as a shooter.
 

lovegtm

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lovegtm

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PP has looked pretty playable on D since the White trade. He'll always be giving something back there, but no more than lots of backup PGs.

Would be fine with letting him play out the next 2 years as useful depth and only bringing back in RFA if the number is very cheap.
 

DourDoerr

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PP has looked pretty playable on D since the White trade. He'll always be giving something back there, but no more than lots of backup PGs.

Would be fine with letting him play out the next 2 years as useful depth and only bringing back in RFA if the number is very cheap.
He seems to have found a nice groove and can hopefully keep building on it. I like his scrappiness on D although it was pretty comical to see him pushing back on Drummond for a moment down low. Thankfully, the Nets didn't take advantage of the mismatch. There might have been blood.
 

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2 big rebounds on the same series......which didnt lead to points but was funny to see.
 

NomarsFool

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PP has looked pretty playable on D since the White trade. He'll always be giving something back there, but no more than lots of backup PGs.

Would be fine with letting him play out the next 2 years as useful depth and only bringing back in RFA if the number is very cheap.
In some ways he always looks a bit overmatched out there, but he seems to be making up for it with 120% effort. So, net - net, in short stints he seems like he can contribute.
 

Cesar Crespo

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Since December: 37 games, .437/.408/1.000, 6.8 points, 2.2 assists, 1.9 rebounds in 14.8 mpg. (53/130 from 3)

Post White: 10 games, .436/.389/---, 6.2 points, 2.6 assists, 2.1 rebounds in 15.8 mpg. (14/36 from 3)

Oct-Nov: 18 games, .213/.233/1.00, 1.7 points, 1.1 assists 1.1 rebounds in 8.8 mpg. (7/30 from 3)

More minutes and more consistent minutes have helped him a lot. The last 36 games he's been dressed for, he only has 1 DNP CD. In his first 26, he had 6.


From my eyes, he's mostly the same player he was last year with slightly better play making skills, though not enough to make a material difference. Given his age and how most of us thought he was already close to his ceiling, that's not much of a surprise. Still, like last year, he's a nice player to have around while he's on his rookie deal.

I think he's an elite shooter or very close to it. I wonder how much he gets paid if he's shooting 40% from 3 after his rookie deal. It would be significantly more if he could add something else to his game other than shooting, though. Or he proves he can hit 38-40% of his 3s on Beasley type volume.
 

HomeRunBaker

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I think he's an elite shooter or very close to it. I wonder how much he gets paid if he's shooting 40% from 3 after his rookie deal. It would be significantly more if he could add something else to his game other than shooting, though. Or he proves he can hit 38-40% of his 3s on Beasley type volume.
PP could never get anywhere close to Beasley-type volume as he isn’t a shot creator at this level while Beasley can get his off whenever he wants…..which is probably a detriment to him but I digress.

I’d guess PP post-rookie deal he’s looking in the ranges of Jordan McLaughlin, Ntilikina, Gabe Vincent, Frank Jackson…..2-years, $2-3m per year. That’s what deep rotation veterans at his position are earning. If he were a full-fledged Top 8-9 that would at least double but he isn’t at that level of a Patty Mills, Diallo, Cory Joseph, etc.

I don’t expect him to be here past this summer as his skillset just doesn’t fit with Ime’s vision and system. I’d look for his roster spot to be taken by a rookie if we move up, someone like JD Davison from Alabama who is athletic and switchable, or a guy via trade/FA….Ntilikina, Elfrid Payton, some type of big-1/combo who isn’t established as a Top 8-9 who will be cheap.
 

nighthob

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I’m not sure how switchable Davison is, he’s awfully short armed. If he’s 6’1” rather than his listed 6’3” he’d be no more playable than Pritchard. Since anyone in the 25-45 range is going to be a looooooong term prospect anyway, I’d think that someone like Blake Wesley (assuming he declares) would be a more likely Pritchard replacement. Wesley is so raw that it might take his entire rookie deal to pan out, but he’s long and shows promise in a Derrick White sort of fashion. (But, honestly, with Begarin joining the team next year I’d think that someone like Stanford SF Harrison Ingram was a more likely target).
 

Strike4

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I don’t expect him to be here past this summer as his skillset just doesn’t fit with Ime’s vision and system.
I also got the sense that Ime was trying to bury PP earlier in the season but due to roster moves and PP playing with poise, he's made it this far. I can see him having a solid playoff season - nothing amazing, but acquitting himself enough that they keep him around in lieu of a rookie or up-and-down end of the bench guy. He's not going to score 15 points in the 4th quarter in a game 6 or anything, but steals and good defense and an occasional big 3 stick in people's minds.
 

Fishy1

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I also got the sense that Ime was trying to bury PP earlier in the season but due to roster moves and PP playing with poise, he's made it this far. I can see him having a solid playoff season - nothing amazing, but acquitting himself enough that they keep him around in lieu of a rookie or up-and-down end of the bench guy. He's not going to score 15 points in the 4th quarter in a game 6 or anything, but steals and good defense and an occasional big 3 stick in people's minds.
I don't know about burying him. He was behind Smart, Schroder, and even Richardson as a third primary ballhandler. He offered something the Celtics badly needed in spacing and three-point shooting... but he wasn't making the shots.

He's got a better AST% this year by a lot, but I imagine a lot of that comes from playing garbage time. I agree with Crespo that he's an elite shooter, and he fits better than Schroder because he's less likely to pound the rock like Schroder. Next to Tatum he makes double-teams a little tougher. I like his fit better than some other shooters since Pritchard can also handle the ball quite well and attack to find other shooters. But the bottom line is he's small, of average quickness for a point guard, and really struggles to score at the rim. He will need to earn minutes the rest of the year with the depth the team has at his position through his shooting.

I was one person comparing him to FVV earlier in the year, and I understand that some people hate that comp -- I agree now that's pretty obviously not a very good comp. They've got similar percentages and take a similar proportion of their shots from close and distance, but FVV is a better passer and much better defender. PP would really need to step up in that department if he wanted to be a solid rotation player for this team or another again.
 

Strike4

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I don't know about burying him. He was behind Smart, Schroder, and even Richardson as a third primary ballhandler. He offered something the Celtics badly needed in spacing and three-point shooting... but he wasn't making the shots.
Yes, it wasn't so much burying him as there were established players ahead of him on the depth chart and for better or worse, PP doesn't have what comes with the rep of a Schroder (for example). If Schroder is sucking he doesn't get benched after 5 minutes because he's earned the rope. If PP was less than sucking he would get benched after 5 minutes.

But I also think that PP's skill set is against him in that situation. His plus attribute is three point accuracy and if his shots aren't falling, he will be subbed out given his other shortcomings (unlike Nesmith earlier in the season, who often looked much worse but is in the game for other reasons). But to get any consistency, PP needs time enough to get his shots in order to show that accuracy. Now, with a bit of a cushion, he is showing that accuracy and a bit more.
 

NomarsFool

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I think PP would be behind Nesmith if he hadn’t gotten injured. At least for a bit, but no one should feel comfortable in that #8 off the bench seat.
 

DGreenwood

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I think PP would be behind Nesmith if he hadn’t gotten injured. At least for a bit, but no one should feel comfortable in that #8 off the bench seat.
Based on what? PP has been playing a ton more minutes than Nesmith since the trade deadline. Of course it'll be situational, Nesmith did play more minutes than PP against Detroit on Feb 16th, but other than that PP has been getting a lot more run.
 

benhogan

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I wouldn't get too attached to anyone outside the TOP7 playing minutes in games that matter and especially the playoffs. IME had zero qualms playing our oldest/most fragile players (Horford/TL) 40 minutes/game in early season games.

While I protested this approach earlier this season, it's working. Can't argue with the results and the team has never been so healthy. I still hope they load manage Horford in back-to-backs (like the last one) the rest of the way