Erica Denhoff/ALOST

akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief

BOSTON — If Friday night’s game didn’t confirm that Celtics guard Payton Pritchard was made for playing-out-the-string-type games, then his follow-up in the regular season finale was one last reminder of what talent lies behind the already-established superstars on Boston — and what the team hopes he will show, even in small spurts, as it heads into the postseason with, arguably, the best team it has had since it won championship No. 17 almost two decades prior.

Pritchard scored a career-high 38 points as a Celtics team made up exclusively of their reserves closed out the regular season with a 132-122 victory over the Washington Wizards on Sunday afternoon inside TD Garden. Svi Mykhailiuk and Neemias Queta also notched career highs, with 26 and 19 points, respectively, as Boston finished its campaign with 64 wins, the most it has registered in a season since the 66-win team of 2007-08 that won the franchise’s most recent NBA championship.

Of all of the players who took the floor for Boston on Sunday, Pritchard is the one who knows the rigors of postseason basketball best, having been a contributor on the teams that went to the NBA Finals in 2022 and came up one game shy of a repeat appearance last season. Pritchard had set a career high in points during the Friday win against Charlotte before eclipsing it less than 48 hours later, a scoring display that included 14 points in the final 2:19 of the first half. All four of his three-pointers came during that stretch, which helped the Celtics build a 10-point lead at halftime.

Pritchard also finished with 12 assists and nine rebounds, a rebound shy of repeating what he did in the regular-season finale last season when he recorded his first triple-double against the Atlanta Hawks.

“If it came, I’ll take it. But I got one last year,” Pritchard said. “It wasn’t like I had pressure to get my first triple-double. I’m a pretty good rebounder. So if I get the minutes, I think I’ll be able to get another triple-double.”

In the process, Pritchard became the fourth player in franchise history to record back-to-back 30-point, 10-assist games, joining John Havlicek, Larry Bird and Bob Cousy.

The Celtics’ assault on the record books concludes with this year’s team posting the fifth-best scoring margin in NBA history (+930), which broke the previous team record that was set during that championship season of 2008 (+841). The plus-930 margin is the best by an NBA team in a season since the 2016-17 Golden State Warriors championship team was plus-954 in their first year after signing Kevin Durant in free agency. Needless to say, nothing short of a championship, especially after the close calls in the past two seasons, would be considered a major disappointment in Beantown.

“The most important thing getting into a situation is having no expectations,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said. “If you study teams that have even been fortunate enough, and if we’re fortunate enough to get to a Finals, if not win it, the road there is always forgotten by the result of winning.”

*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Sunday afternoon’s game, with photos taken by ALOST staff photographer Erica Denhoff. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 35 pictures in total.

Facebook Comments Box
Tags : Boston CelticsNational Basketball AssociationPayton PritchardWashington Wizards

Leave a Response