In Sunday’s 108-107 loss to the same Pacers team, Boston surrendered 39 points after halftime. And after the game, head coach Brad Stevens put it bluntly when he told reporters, “Anytime you give up 40 in a quarter on the road to a good team, you’re probably going to lose,” Stevens said of his Celtics.
Indiana’s 37 points after halftime on Tuesday could have easily turned into 40. Boston’s defense was that atrocious, especially in transition – where the Pacers scored 15 fast-break points and, in the process, carved out a 17-point third-quarter lead. Victor Oladipo, who rested Sunday (second night of a back-to-back), finished with a team-high 24 points on 10-of-18 from the floor and T.J. Warren added 17 points off of 7-of-13.
Jaylen Brown On Payton Pritchard: ‘Payton Is The G.O.A.T, Man’
However, for the Celtics, the beginning 1:58 of the final frame was the game’s turning point. Led by Celtics rookie Payton Pritchard, Boston pressured the Pacers’ backcourt – which led to back-to-back defensive stops.
And off of those missed shots, Payton pushed the ball on offense – it led Pritchard to connect on back-to-back shots, thus extending to an 8-0 Celtics run that sliced Indiana’s lead to three (94-91). From there, Pritchard spent the majority of the night dissecting the Pacers in one way or another, and eventually, the Celtics’ 33-17 fourth-quarter advantage over the Pacers turned into a 116-111 victory – Boston’s most impressive win, thus far.
“Payton is the GOAT, man – Payton came in with the confidence,” Brown said. “(We) definitely needed a spark coming off the bench and Payton was everything and more for us tonight. We’re going to need more guys to step up but excellent job from Payton Pritchard, man. The kid can play and I’m looking forward to him and other guys stepping up, as well, in the future.”
Down the stretch, with the game on the line, Pritchard remained poised, demonstrative, and assertive on both ends of the floor. He finished with 10 points on 4-of-8 from the floor, along with 5 assists and 5 rebounds.
Pritchard was relentless and wasn’t shy of the moment, nearly converting a 3-point dagger with 46.3 seconds left that would have increased Boston’s lead from eight to 11.
“We had him running all kinds of pick-and-rolls in the second quarter and the start of the fourth quarter,” Stevens said Tuesday night. “He’s poised on that stuff and makes the right play. He’s deceptive so he can get in, use his body and finish. We saw it on a couple of occasions. He’s a guy who knows who to play.
“We’re awfully small at times when he’s in there late with that group but I thought he did a good job on both ends tonight.”
Celtics Rookie Payton Pritchard Is ‘All About Winning’
Pritchard, who clocked in 27:09 in Tuesday’s game, understands his coach isn’t afraid to plug his late first-round pick into late-game situations and says he’s constantly preparing himself for the moment his name is called.
“Coming off the bench, I want to be able to provide a spark,” Pritchard said. “Either to get the team going or help the team build a bit more of a lead. I’m all about winning. That’s why we play this game. I want to win and I want to help as much as I can to get a win. I just tried to do that tonight.”