Easy to forget, Payton Pritchard isn’t too small for the big moments for the Celtics

It was one of the funniest moments of the NBA playoffs.

In the 2nd game of the Eastern Conference Finals, Boston Celtics guard Payton Pritchard painted the Miami Heat against Tyler Hero and take a short jump. Then Pritchard put his hand close to the ground, a common NBA mockery, a defender who was too small to care about mockery.

Pritchard is just over six feet tall and, in almost every NBA situation, is the youngest player on the court. The hero is four inches taller than himself.

“The game is competitive, so I mean there will always be a bit of a quarrel here and therePritchard was silent in a recent interview.

Pritchard is usually the recipient of these ads.

“If you give, you have to take it too,” he said.

Pritchard, a second-year guardian, has often been too small for the University of Oregon to sometimes get confused with the team director.

“I go out there and leave the hoop aside. I don’t care, ”Pritchard said. “They’ll know my name after the game.”

They certainly do now. Pritchard, 24, has had his moments off the bench as a scorer in the playoffs. In Thursday’s No. 1 NBA Finals game against Golden State, Pritchard pushed for Boston’s fourth-quarter return with 5 points and 4 rebounds in eight minutes. In those eight minutes, Celtics were 18 points ahead of Golden State.

His best success of the season was against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. Pritchard scored double figures in three of the first four games. In Game 4, Pritchard scored 14 points, 11 of them in the fourth quarter, extinguishing hope for Heat’s return.

Boston coach Ime Udoka has used it occasionally, in part because Pritchard’s size makes him an easy target on defense. In the last three games of the Celtics Heat series, Pritchard played just 12 minutes and didn’t score.

He also fought the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals, but in the decisive game of the 7th game, he scored 14 points and then gave another viral moment. In the fourth quarter, Pritchard made it 3 for Celtics to put up 20 more. Pritchard returned to his Boston chair and shouted, “That’s what I do!” he shouted.

Damon Stoudamire, Celtics assistant coach, knows full well what it’s like to be the youngest player on the court. His 13-year NBA career was nicknamed the Mighty Mouse because he was less than 6 feet tall.

“Those kind of moments that you capture with the camera, no one really thinks about,” Pritchard said of the 3-point game against the Bucks. “But man, that’s built a lot,” he said.

He added: “At the moment, he is showing emotion because he has finally got the chance. I mean, people forget: he didn’t really play the first half of the season. “

The Celtics selected him for the 26th draft pick in 2020 after a four-year college career in Pritchard, Oregon, where he was the first team in all of America to help the program reach the Final Four. NCAA Championship.

By the way, Pritchard was one of the best guards to come out of Oregon from Stoudamire, a Portland native known to Pritchard as a boy. Like Stoudamire, Pritchard was known for his scoring ability, shooting ability, and supreme confidence.

“When I got into the NBA, I was ready to go in at the time and play in the NBA right awaysaid Pritchard.

Rookie had a good year, despite having to play behind more established guards like Marcus Smart, Jeff Teague and Kemba Walker. In 66 games, Pritchard averaged 7.7 points per game and shot 41.1 percent from 3 in 19.2 minutes of the game.

But this season was uneventful. In the first half, Pritchard was once again buried deep in the board. When he played, he couldn’t make a shot. He appeared in 71 of 82 games this season. In the first 49, Pritchard shot 37.8 percent from the field and played just 12.3 minutes of the game compared to his new year.

On some nights, he didn’t play at all. He said it was “very frustrating”.

Stoudamire described Pritchard as “mentally taxable.”

“Throughout his life, he’s been the focus of most teams,” Stoudamir said. “Now he can’t even get off the chair. He really doesn’t know why. As employees, we tried our best to talk to him. Like I said, it really has nothing to do with you. It’s just the numbers. “

This led to difficult conversations between Udoka, Oregon’s hometown, and Pritchard. The two also had a youthful relationship with Pritchard.

At one point I asked him if he had ever seen me play here. Am I good enough to play? ‘ said Pritchard. “I believed in myself. I was always good enough. But is this appropriate? He reassured me, and the trading period was over. And then the opportunity came. ”

Among the many moves at the time, the Celtics exchanged two veteran guards who were playing before Pritchard – Dennis Schröder and Josh Richardson – and brought in Derrick White from the San Antonio Spurs. Suddenly, things started to click for Pritchard.

After an All-Star break, he had the best stretch of his career, averaging 9.6 points per game in 22 games, averaging 9.6 points per game. He was one of the top 3-point shooters in the league at the time, with 47.3 percent. He played well enough in the playoffs that Udoka was confident at times of playing crucial minutes in tight matches, including against a skilled Nets team in the first round and now against Golden State in the semifinals.

If Pritchard is to be successful in the long run, he will have to find a way to overcome defensive struggles. Especially in the Bucks series, Pritchard sometimes found himself in a solo situation with 6-foot-11 Giannis Antetokounmpo. No doubt Pritchard would hold him from time to time. But for now, it’s Pritchard’s shooting that keeps him on the ground. Most of his shots are 3. In 19 post-season games, he is shooting 46.5 percent from the field and 37.7 percent from 3.

During these playoffs, his big games have always been the games we left because of his shots at the time, ”Stoudamir said.

His appearance — or reappearance as a shooter — is not surprising to Pritchard. As the saying goes: After all, that’s what it does.

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