With each made shot, the atmosphere within the building grew exponentially, and the Celtics bench began to feed off that energy. You see, this wasn’t just any game for Pritchard. A Portland native, who played basketball at the youth, high school, and collegiate level, Pritchard is somewhat of a hero in those parts.
So, despite the Trail Blazers getting blown out, sections of the arena loved the performance on the floor – even if it wasn’t from a member of their team. Unfortunately, with each made basket, the young Celtics rotation on the floor were force-feeding the hot hand, irrespective of the time remaining on the clock or how disrespectful their actions may seem to the opposing team.
And then, Pritchard hit yet another three, and the bench went wild. Not cheering on the sidelines with a bit of additional enthusiasm wild, we’re talking running down the sideline and taunting the opposing bench type of wild.
As you can see from the end of this video, head coach Ime Udoka felt it necessary to end the celebrations after they had led to a technical foul from the referees and were beginning to rile the opposing team’s bench and coaching staff.
Udoka: ‘That’s When Things Get Heated on the Court’
Teams celebrate when a member of the roster gets things going. That’s nothing new. A thunderous dunk will always get the bench on their feet, or a timely three-pointer will result in some raised voices cheering encouragement.
But, the scenes from the Celtics bench were a step too far, according to Udoka, who was concerned things could get nasty if his team didn’t act with a little more class.
“You wanna see him (Pritchard) do well, obviously the crowd’s very supportive, hometown hero basically. It got a little out of hand to some extent, with our guys getting overzealous a little bit and getting a technical. I told them in the locker room to keep that professional. And then, Payton is a young guy that’s shooting it well, playing well, and what we woulda like to do is slow that down. We got three offensive rebounds and were getting it back up with 10/9 seconds. We wanna hold that and respect the game. So, I did apologize to Chauncy at the end for that. Didn’t mean to get out of hand like that – that’s when things get heated on the court. So, you’d like a little more understanding, but at the same time he’s caught up playing well in front of his hometown, you’re happy for him, but there’s a line not to cross there,” Udoka said when asked if he felt his team acted unprofessionally following Pritchard’s fourth-quarter eruption.
Udoka is right, of course. In recent weeks, the Celtics have found themselves on the receiving end of performances such as Pritchards and have not encountered the type of show-boating they put on display during the December 4th clash. Yet, Boston’s roster is primarily filled with young talent, who seems to be building camaraderie between them, so allowing them some room to celebrate each other is a wise move.
Celtics Stars Happy For Pritchard
Speaking to the media after the game, both Jayson Tatum and Dennis Schroder explained their happiness at seeing Pritchard find success in front of what was essentially a home crowd for him.
However, the success wasn’t just limited to Pritchard – multiple members of the Celtics rotation snapped out of their funks during the Trail Blazers game, most notably sophomore wing Aaron Nesmith, who went three-of-four from deep.
“Obviously happy for him, him being back home. It hasn’t been ideal for him, but he’s always ready when his numbers called, and I know it felt good for him seeing some shots go down and being back home,” Tatum said.
Schroder echoed his All-Star teammate’s sentiments when he spoke with the media, “It was great, I mean, I got a technical, I don’t know if I liked it that much. It’s great to see him, in his hometown, where he played college, ball like that, just come. He had a little bit of frustration because he hasn’t played that much, hasn’t seen the court much yet. But, I mean, it’s great to see these people who are working hard every single day. I think Jayson Tatum mentioned that everybody in this locker room, they work, try to get better, and everybody tries to help the team win. And to see it pay off like that, getting hot in the fourth quarter, it means a lot to for me and my teammates for sure.”
With the Celtics due to embark on a brutal stretch of games throughout December, having some of the younger bench pieces begin to find their rhythm will be invaluable for the team’s chances of success. The only question left is whether Udoka will deepen his rotation to allow the likes of Pritchard and Nesmith the opportunity to continue providing a scoring spark off the Celtics bench.