Payton Pritchard Is Prepared For The Boston Celtics Postseason

April 16, 2024

The last time we checked in on the Boston Celtics they were playing out a string of meaningless games after having clinched the NBA’s best record. It was a golden opportunity for a role player to step up while the stars were getting their rest. This is where Payton Pritchard comes into the picture.The Top Seeded Boston Celtics Must Now Wait For Their Real SeasonBefore we praise Pritchard, let’s briefly congratulate the Celtics on a regular season performance for the history books. With their 132-122 win over the Washington Wizards on Sunday, they concluded their 2023-24 campaign with a 64-18 record, the fourth-best in team history. The list of things they accomplished was so lengthy that radio play-by-play announcer Sean Grande couldn’t fit them all in a thread on the Website Formerly Known As Twitter. Instead, he had to link to a separate document just for the sake of thoroughness.While these last few games were a victory lap for the starters, it was on Pritchard to impress head coach Joe Mazzulla. On Friday, against the Charlotte Hornets, he scored a career-high 31 points and then he stepped it up the very next game against Washington, racking up 38 points and ending up just a rebound short of a triple-double.Flash back to last year, when there were rumblings that Pritchard was looking for a change of scenery due to a decrease in playing time. Instead, the Celtics convinced him to sign a four-year, $30 million extension, probably emphasizing the fact that he would be unlikely to find a better opportunity to play for a championship. Pritchard rewarded the Celtics’ faith by emerging as one of their most valuable weapons off the bench. Alone among his teammates, Pritchard played all 82 games this season while averaging a career-high 22.3 minutes.He also seemed more at ease with his role this season. After the game, he was quoted by the Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach, as saying that he didn’t have much to prove, “I already knew I could do that on a nightly basis,” Pritchard said. “When you have a team with as much talent as we have, you have to do other things to help winning. So, this doesn’t do anything for me.”This is a healthy attitude to have. Once the playoffs begin, and the starters resume getting the lion’s share of the available minutes, Pritchard will be back looking for his spots to help his team when Boston begins playing meaningful games in TD Garden again on April 21st.Who will they be playing? Well, thanks to the complexity of the play-in tournament, there are four possible contenders. The Philadelphia 76ers and the Miami Heat will play the first game of the play-in tournament, and the loser of that meeting will face either the Chicago Bulls or the Atlanta Hawks, depending on which team has eliminated the other. The Celtics will face whoever is lucky enough to survive that second play-in game. (Considering how last year’s postseason went, one imagines that they would be perfectly okay with ducking the Heat this time around.)Obviously, the Celtics would probably prefer to know who they are facing in advance, but they know that winning the East has given them a huge advantage. Whoever they face in Game 1 will have already played two games, including at least one elimination game. The Celtics would be heavy favorites in the first round regardless, but—at least in theory—their extended layoff should give them the advantage.SportsMoney Playbook: Sign up for SportsMoney Playbook for the latest sports news and analysis of valuations, signings, gambling and billionaire owners.By signing up, you agree to our Terms of Service, and you acknowledge our Privacy Statement. Forbes is protected by reCAPTCHA, and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.On Sunday, Pritchard will be headed back to the bench as Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kristaps Porzingis, Jrue Holiday and Derrick White return as the team’s regular starting five. That, however, doesn’t mean he won’t be valuable as the team’s potential secret weapon. Of course, he might be slightly less of a secret than he was a week ago.