Betting on Payton Pritchard was a smart gamble: 6 takeaways from Celtics vs. Thunder

Pritchard and Grant Williams played well as the Celtics finished their road trip 4-0.

Celtics Thunder
Boston Celtics forward Grant Williams, left, tries to get the ball from Oklahoma City Thunder forward Aleksej Pokusevski. AP Photo/Kyle Phillips

Payton Pritchard made his first 3-pointer against the Thunder on Monday, but he missed his second which brought his streak of 10-straight makes over three games to a halt.

No matter. He made his next one and three more attempts en route to a 5-for-11 performance as the Celtics held off a spirited Thunder rally led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander down the stretch 132-123.

When the Celtics traded Dennis Schröder at the deadline, they did so in part because Schröder was a visibly poor fit alongside Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, and in part because they were likely to lose him in free agency and had an opportunity to salvage an asset of some kind. Schröder had been bumped down in the rotation by Ime Udoka already, so unloading him made a lot of sense for everyone involved.


But the Celtics were also betting on Pritchard, who excelled in Summer League and training camp, and whose development stalled briefly thanks to Schröder’s ball-dominant presence. Pritchard always seemed like a more logical fit than Schröder given his ability to hit from deep off the catch, and he is proving the Celtics were wise for wanting to see what he could bring to the table — 46.7 percent from deep over his last 20 games and 50 percent over his last 10, which boosted his average over 40 percent again for the season.

Having a real shooter in the lineup opens up the floor. Having two — because at this point, Grant Williams absolutely has to be considered a shooter — makes life much easier for everyone involved, but most notably for Tatum and Brown. On a trip west that looked much tougher on paper than it proved to be in practice, the Celtics’ solid bench complemented their league-best starting lineup perfectly.

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2. Grant Williams finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds — the first 20-10 game of his career.

After Sunday’s game against the Nuggets, Williams dubbed himself “Batman” due to his defense against Nikola Jokic (whose nickname is the Joker). With little else to talk about as the Celtics beat teams over the head with a club unceremoniously for 48 minutes, Williams’ self-imposed nickname became a prime topic for fans and for the broadcast on NBC Sports Boston which featured Brian Scalabrine and Kendrick Perkins.


Even Al Horford got in on it.

After the game, Williams came to his press conference prepared with Marvel Comic nicknames for everyone on the team (he gave himself Spider-Man because, of course, Batman is a DC Comics character).

“I’m not like the most athletic, I’m not the most incredible, but brains and then like everything else you work with, that was the Batman kind of spiel,” Williams said.

3. Fresh off winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week, Jayson Tatum put up 36 points, seven rebounds and six assists. The assists included a somewhat new look: Tatum with his back to the basket finding cutters. Opposing teams double Tatum consistently out of the pick-and-roll, and they are locked in on him even when he doesn’t have a screener coming. As a result, teammates can find plenty of open space around the hoop if Tatum is pulled away from the basket.

Here’s an example, in which Tatum found Brown.

“[Tatum and Brown] are obviously getting a lot of attention, JT is seeing a lot of double teams so when you get a chance, make the right play and be aggressive,” Derrick White said. “They are doing the great thing of making the right play each time down and making it easier for us. We just have to execute and do what we do.”


4. White broke out of a nasty offensive slump with 18 points on 5-for-10 shooting. He still couldn’t find the range from three, however, finishing just 1-for-5.

“Everybody’s been super helpful keeping me up, just saying ‘stay confident, stay aggressive,'” he said. “It’s nice to see some go in, but trying to affect winning in other ways, so that’s just what I was trying to do. We all say that before every game, just win. So that’s what I try to do.”

White has certainly affected winning even when he shoots poorly — his lineups outscore opponents by 9.3 points per 100 possessions. That’s a great number, even if it is pretty par for the course as the Celtics obliterate everyone they face.

5. The Celtics moved into a virtual tie for second place with their win. While teams generally seem to want to avoid the No. 2 seed since they will have to face the Nets in the first round, the Celtics are rolling and probably aren’t too scared of facing anyone at this point.

“I think that’s important for this team, just focusing on the next game, and not worrying about what the seeding is,” Williams said. “No matter where we are at, just focusing on the day and what’s tomorrow and who we play next.”

6. Marcus Smart and Robert Williams sat out, and the Thunder achieved an offensive rating of 123. That doesn’t feel like a coincidence.


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