By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Rookie guard Payton Pritchard felt like a fan favorite before even playing in a real game for the Celtics. He’s quickly earning that title for real – and even bigger compliments from his own teammates.
“Payton is the GOAT, man,” declared Jaylen Brown, after Pritchard played key minutes in the fourth quarter of the Celtics’ comeback win over the Pacers on Tuesday night. “Payton came in with the confidence, definitely needed a spark coming off the bench, and Payton was everything and more for us tonight.
“We’re going to need more guys to continue to step up, but excellent job from Payton Pritchard, man. Kid can play.”
Pritchard scored 10 points on 4-of-8 from the field in 27 minutes on Tuesday. The rookie checked in with 5:07 left in the third quarter and stayed in the game until there was 2:05 left in regulation, scoring five of his 10 points in that span. He also made a key steal with 4:52 left, which led to a Marcus Smart three-pointer that put the C’s up seven. Head coach Brad Stevens complimented Pritchard’s performance when he ran pick-and-rolls down the stretch.
“He’s poised off that stuff, he makes the right play,” Stevens said of Pritchard. “He’s deceptive, so he can get in and use his body and finish, as we saw on a couple of occasions. I mean, he’s a guy who knows how to play.”
Jayson Tatum also had an interesting nickname for Pritchard, apparently naming him after Eminem’s character “Rabbit” in the movie 8 Mile.
It sounds like the two sides are feeding off each other early in the season.
“Having that confidence from your coach and also from your teammates, it means the world to me because it can allow me to keep growing as a player,” Pritchard said after the game.
Pritchard is shooting 59.1 percent from the field in his first four games, including 5-of-9 (55.6 percent) from three-point range. He’s posted impressive per-36-minute averages of 13.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, two three-pointers, and 2.5 steals. He just needs to clean up the turnovers (3.3 per 36 minutes), which have hurt his overall efficiency.
But to be certain, Pritchard has already shown more than most of the Celtics’ late-first-round picks have shown in recent years. So far, it looks like they have found themselves a valuable piece.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff or send him a nasty email at email@example.com.