The Boston Celtics beefed up their bench in the offseason, addressing their most pressing weakness. The Celtics’ eight-man rotation caught up with them in the 2022 NBA Finals after a grueling postseason run. Boston went from having few reserves to becoming one of the deepest teams in the NBA. While they are off to a tremendous start, those offseason acquisitions haven’t fared well for third-year guard Payton Pritchard.
Payton Pritchard has seen his playing time diminish for the Boston Celtics
The Celtics had the toughest postseason run of any team in the NBA last year. Even though they secured the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, they earned a first-round matchup against Kyre Irving, Kevin Durant, and the Brooklyn Nets.
After sweeping Brooklyn, Boston outlasted both the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks and then the top-seeded Miami Heat in seven game series. From there, they took on the Golden State Warriors, who beat them in six games in the championship round.
In the offseason, the Celtics quickly addressed their bench issue, trading for veteran guard Malclom Brogdon and signing veteran forward Danilo Gallinari. Gallinari tore his ACL in a summer league game in Italy. Boston also brought in Blake Griffin and Noah Vonleh and turned to second-year sharpshooter Sam Hauser.
With now one of the deepest benches in the league, Pritchard has been the odd man out.
Pritchard is averaging 10.9 minutes per game, down from 19.2 in his rookie year. He’s only appeared in 11 of the team’s 19 games. He’s averaging 5.5 points and shooting 44% from three-point land.
Pritchard explains his role with the Celtics
While Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown usually get the credit for the success of the Celtics, Pritchard earned himself some recognition in Friday night’s 122-104 win over the Sacramento Kings.
The Celticsraced out to a 16-point lead in the second quarter, only to see the Kings climb back and enter halftime down just 64-62. Sacramento held an 84-79 lead with 3:12 left in the third quarter before the Celtics turned to Pritchard.
Pritchard enter the game and hit two free throws to tied the game at 84-84. He then snapped the tie with his three-pointer, giving the Celtics the lead for good. He brought energy off the bench and helped ignite a 19-0 Celtics run. After the game, he was asked what he thought his role is with this team.
“Right now, I think my role on this team is to be an energy boost,” Pritchard told Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. “When my number is called, I have to be ready.”
Brown said he felt an energy shift once Pritchard entered the game.
“Payton is a fan favorite, so when he got in the game, you felt that energy,” said Brown, per NBC Sports Boston. “That’s all we needed. He came out and played hard. He made some big-time baskets, which I said before is really hard to do in this league. Just come off and be like a microwave like that. I think that’s one of the hardest things to do in this league.”
Pritchard knows his role with the Celtics and executed it perfectly Friday night.