Celtics

5 takeaways as Payton Pritchard explodes in homecoming, Celtics roll Trail Blazers

The Celtics improved to 1-1 on their road trip as their offense went off again.

Celtics Blazers takeaways
Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart works against Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum during the second half of an NBA basketball game. AP Photo/Steve Dipaola

Here are the takeaways as the Celtics claimed the first win of their west coast road trip on Saturday with a blowout over the Trail Blazers.

1. We will get to Payton Pritchard, but the real reason the Celtics won was that they seemed to bottle whatever 3-point magic the Jazz conjured on Friday. The Celtics were 21-for-37 from 3-point range, while the Blazers finished just 8-for-29 from behind the arc. That’s a monumental 39-point difference in points generated from 3-point shooting — something essentially no team will ever be able to overcome.

The heavy hitters included Pritchard (5-for-10), as well as Jayson Tatum (4-for-6) and Dennis Schröder (5-for-7) but one notable name popped up as the Celtics pulled away in the third and fourth quarters: Aaron Nesmith, who shot 3-for-4 from deep in a return to the lineup.

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Ime Udoka was criticized heavily for dipping deep into his bench in the first half when the Blazers climbed back into the game. Juancho Hernangomez in particular put together a tough stretch that left him -15 in 12 minutes.

But down the stretch, that depth — combined with hot 3-point shooting — helped the Celtics turn a comfortable win into such a blowout that Ime Udoka felt the need to apologize to Chauncey Billups.

“The games that we had big leads and let those slip away, it’s lost moments for those young guys,” Udoka said. “So I’m happy that they really got the lead going in the third quarter, toward the end of the third. We left them in the fourth and they continued to capitalize on that.”

2. Jayson Tatum seems to have figured out west coast games. In the past two seasons, his trips west have led to some of the more dominant stretches in the entire league, and he started this year’s trek with 37 and 31 points in the first games.

His long-range shotmaking woke up a bit on Saturday too.

Waiting for Tatum’s 3-point percentages to spike has been a season-long endeavor, but he’s playing great again.

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“Twenty some-odd games in, I feel a lot better about myself Game 22 or whatever than I did Game 1,” Tatum said. “I think that’s how it goes. The more games you play, the more comfortable you get.”

3. If you were wondering why the Celtics were all wearing headbands on Saturday, that was Tatum’s idea.

“It was an idea I threw out before the game, do something as a team,” Tatum said. “It don’t got to be permanent or anything but the season can be long and tough, just do some things to have fun and kind of bring us together.”

4. Pritchard’s offensive explosion down the stretch came at a time when the game was mostly decided.

Still, it was one of those moments that breaks up what can be a monotonous regular season. Pritchard — who was a high-school basketball legend in Oregon and went to the University of Oregon — found his rhythm against his hometown team as the bench exalted.

The celebration spilled all along the sideline, and Schröder pretended to collapse into Jaylen Brown’s arms. Brown laid him on the ground, and Grant Williams administered fake CPR.

The officials, it seems, felt the celebration was a bit too enthusiastic.

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“I got a technical,” Schröder said smiling. “I don’t know if I liked it that much.”

For Pritchard, who has had a frustrating season after a very promising summer, a breakout game in front of friends and family had to be gratifying.

“It feels good just to come back and play in your hometown,” Pritchard said. “… Oregon is a special place to me. So for me and our team to come out here and just play well and get a win on this west coast trip feels good.”

Pritchard was asked about Udoka apologizing to Billups for the onslaught down the stretch.

“I mean, we’re hitting shots,” Pritchard said. “So I don’t know what they want us to do. At the same time, I get it, we were like free balling it, but we were just playing ball and hitting shots.”

For the record, Billups certainly didn’t seem to blame the Celtics.

“I’ve never seen a team that needs its bench to inspire our starters. That s— is crazy to me,” Billups said. “It’s supposed to be the other way around.”

5. Quietly, the Celtics have inched up to eighth in net rating, with a +4.7 total in their last five games. They seem to remain an offensive explosion away from really putting themselves into some interesting conversations.

“We play fast, move the ball — I think when we do that, we’re going to be in great shape,” Schröder said. “I think that’s what we have to focus on. Not too much iso and, ‘Somebody switched on me, wait for the iso.’ JT same thing, JB same thing, I think we just have to get that ball rolling out there and everybody touches it.”

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Of course, it helps quite a bit when Tatum looks like Tatum again. Fortunately for the Celtics, they have three more games of West Coast Tatum remaining.

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