It turns out FastPP is a fast learner.
On a night where the Boston Celtics were without their two top point guards (three, if you count Kemba Walker) Payton Pritchard came off the bench to drop 23 points on 61.5% shooting while handing out a team-high eight assists.
“He stepped up,” Jayson Tatum said after the Celtics win over the Toronto Raptors. “We didn’t have Teague tonight, didn’t have Smart, so it just gave guys more opportunity and he played really well tonight. We’re going to need that going forward.”
Pritchard didn’t get the start against the Raptors, but he played 32 minutes to give the Celtics a much-needed lift on a back-to-back. After the team came out looking sluggish in the first quarter, Pritchard helped key a Celtics turnaround that unlocked Tatum for his 40 point explosion.
Boston was down as much as 13, but they came back to tie the game over the first four minutes of the second quarter. In that stretch, the Raptors dared anyone other than Tatum to beat them, and Pritchard responded by either scoring or assisting on four of the Celtics’ five made field goals.
Not bad for a rookie thrown into the fire without the normal summer league and training camp experience.
“Man, Payton doesn’t need anything. He’s a vet,” Grant Williams, the recipient of three of Pritchard’s assists, said after the game. “I feel like he’s old enough, he’s a guy that’s been playing in college at a high level. And then he also just sees the game really, really well. He plays with an intensity and a certain competitiveness that inspires others.”
A lot of Pritchard’s success seems to come from him playing at a different speed than the rest of the players on the floor. It’s that kind of effort that turned Danny Ainge onto him. It’s that kind of work that’s going to keep him on the floor through what will certainly be ups and downs.
“I stay ready for any opportunity that comes my way,” he said. “Each and every night is going to be a different night, but I’m gonna find little ways that can be different offensively, whatever it is to help my team that night. So for me, it’s just staying prepared to do my work every day and be mentally and physically locked in.”
The Celtics were always going to need one of their rookies to contribute. Most people thought it would be Aaron Nesmith, but he’s having a tougher time picking certain things up right now. Pritchard has emerged as the immediate contributor, and the Celtics are going to take advantage of it.
“He’s a competitive guy. I mean, two nights ago he didn’t have any points, he played 16 minutes,” Brad Stevens said. “Tonight against a really good team with really good guards, really good defense, he was able to find a little bit of rhythm and really play well. I think that’s sometimes the rookie experience. I think that he’s been more — he’s had more good nights, for sure, than not. And we’re going to ask him to do a lot right now. Fair or unfair to him, he’s gonna have to be consistent for us, for us to have a chance to be a good team.”