Celtics

5 takeaways as Payton Pritchard, Summer League Celtics blow out the Magic

Pritchard and Sam Hauser combined for 10 3-pointers.

Payton Pritchard Summer League
Payton Pritchard of the Boston Celtics drives against the Denver Nuggets during the 2021 NBA Summer League. Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Payton Pritchard and the Summer League Celtics continued to look like a juggernaut on Thursday, rolling to a 108-71 victory over the Magic.

The Celtics, who are now 3-0 in Las Vegas, got encouraging performances across the board on both ends.

Here are the takeaways.

1. Payton Pritchard continued to look like a Summer League superstar, tallying 17 points and nine assists. Once again, he stretched consistently far behind the 3-point line — an intriguing subplot for the Celtics before training camp.

Pritchard’s Summer League performance has raised eyebrows. After a solid rookie season (in which his play often hinted he might have deep range), Pritchard is starting to solidify his status as a sniper. He was more of a facilitator on Thursday with solid change of speed and direction, and he pulled up from range out of the pick-and-roll as well.

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“I think shooting off the pick-and-roll in a variety of ways is a big separator in the league,” Pritchard said. “You see a lot of good guards do that.”

How Pritchard fits on the regular roster will be interesting. Could he slot into the starting lineup as a floor spacer alongside Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, or would the Celtics prefer his offensive punch off the bench? In either case, Ime Udoka and his staff have plenty of reason for optimism based on Pritchard’s performance so far.

2. Two-way wing Sam Hauser found his range from deep and exploded for a team-high 21 points on 7-for-12 shooting, which included six 3-pointers. The Magic kept losing Hauser, who moved really well without the ball, and he made them pay repeatedly.

“Sam has been tremendous,” Celtics Summer League coach Joe Mazzulla said. “… [He] is extremely unselfish. He’s much more of a physical defender than people may give him credit for, and he’s become a better individual defender throughout this week.”

Hauser told reporters after the game that he had a good workout with the Celtics, who said they weren’t sure if he would be available when they picked. Hauser went undrafted, and the team called him immediately and invited him to take a two-way slot.

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The only problem: The Celtics gave Hauser very little time to make up his mind.

“They said, ‘We’re going to offer you a two-way, and I got 10 minutes to kind of decide,'” Hauser said. “And I decided it was the right fit for me. It’s a good organization, and I think they’re going to take time to develop my game and hopefully get some opportunities throughout the year.”

Hauser said he didn’t mind getting thrown into the fire.

“I just think it’s a good organization, and I think there’s opportunity there for me throughout the year to get better as a player,” Hauser said. “Hopefully, you know, play a little bit here and there with the team in the NBA. But overall just developing my game.”

3. Juhann Begarin had his best game of Summer League to date, showing flashes of the versatile skill set that intrigued the Celtics in the second round. The (barely) 19-year-old scored seven points on 3-for-7 shooting and went just 1-for-5 from three, but he pulled down seven rebounds and dished out eight assists. Defensively, his unique combination of size, length, and athleticism once again was a difference-maker as he tallied two steals.

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4. Romeo Langford didn’t play, but Mazzulla said Langford will be available Saturday. Asked whether the Celtics will continue playing potential rotation players like Aaron Nesmith (18 points, 8-for-15 shooting) and Pritchard, Mazzulla said he wasn’t certain yet.

“I think that’ll be discussed later today just as an organization, and we’ll probably know more about that tomorrow,” Mazzulla said. “But like I said, it’s a day-by-day thing and just want to do what’s best for them and what’s best for the Celtics.”

Whether it factors into the team’s decision-making or not, Mazzulla admitted the Celtics are at least a little aware of the Summer League standings.

“Obviously, you see we are 3-0,” Mazzulla said. “I don’t know who else is.”

5. ESPN’s announcing crew was a lot of fun, particularly color commentator Renee Montgomery who brought a lot of energy to the broadcast. Her one-liners and enthusiasm helped spice up what would otherwise have been a very dry fourth quarter. Watch for her to be a rising star on ESPN basketball broadcasts.

The Celtics close their regular-season slate of Summer League games on Saturday at 5 p.m. against the Sixers. If they win that game, they have a shot to play in the Las Vegas Summer League championship.

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