Boston Celtics

TAMPA, FLORIDA - JANUARY 04: Payton Pritchard #11 of the Boston Celtics drives during a game against the Toronto Raptors at Amalie Arena on January 04, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

By Sean Sylver, 98.5 The Sports Hub

Let’s empty out the notebook as the Celtics head into the weekend, nine games into the season.

New sensation

Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum were high picks of whom much was expected. Not too much is expected out of a late first rounder. But Ainge has found a number of serviceable pros outside of the lottery during his time with the Celtics: guys like Al Jefferson, Tony Allen, Delonte West, Avery Bradley and Terry Rozier. Even Jared Sullinger was a double-double machine for a little bit.

No. 26 pick Payton Pritchard may not wind up the best of them all – Jefferson did, after all, make an All-NBA team playing in Charlotte – but if nine games are any indication, he’s got a chance to have the greatest early impact of any late first rounder during Ainge’s tenure.

He may not average 23 minutes once Walker is back, but Pritchard’s heady play, combined with the weirdness of this year’s schedule, should guarantee solid rotation time – which so far has produced per-36 averages of 13 points, five assists and nearly two steals.

Close shave

The inequity of this season’s launch has led to plenty of blowouts throughout the league. Some teams started the campaign with only a couple of months to recuperate. Others hadn’t suited up since March.

The result has been some uneven basketball:

By contrast, five of the Celtics’ nine games have come down to the final possession. Luckily, they’ve managed to steal three wins: in addition to Pritchard’s buzzer bailout Wednesday night in Miami, they’ve gotten two big shots from Tatum: in Milwaukee on opening night, and on Sunday in Detroit. 

Brad Stevens’ teams have always been susceptible to momentum shifts, and they’ve given up some substantial leads in the early going. With fewer nights off this season, all of the close games could take a toll. It’s definitely something to keep an eye on.

Pivot minute

While there’s been plenty of griping over Brad Stevens’ “two big” lineup, and a number of fans continue to pine for an impact big instead of the hodgepodge they currently deploy, Boston’s middle men have been getting it done.

Keeping a possession alive is key for a team missing a top playmaker for an extended period.

Now, the defense has been inconsistent – to put it kindly – and Boston could probably improve clearing the glass on the other end (currently 25th in defensive rebounding). But it’s a nice stat and another feather in the cap of Williams, who has made an impact in his 16 minutes a night, packing the stat sheet and making 77 percent of his shot attempts.

Unfortunately, the rebounding numbers are bound to tail off as the Time Lord – along with Grant Williams and Tristan Thompson – is facing a week’s absence per the league’s COVID-19 protocol.

Coming up next

The Celtics host Russell Westbrook, Bradley Beal and the Wizards Friday night at TD Garden. As mentioned, Boston’s frontcourt depth just took a hit. Washington is a disappointing 2-6 this season with their new backcourt combination, and Beal is likely to be miffed after tossing in 60 points Wednesday night in a five-point loss to the 76ers. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. on 98.5 The Sports Hub.

Sean Sylver can be heard on 98.5 The Sports Hub. Talk hoops with him on Twitter @TheSylverFox.

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