Celtics Rookie Shines In NBA Debut vs. Sixers

Getty Images Payton Pritchard drives against the Philadelphia 76ers during the fourth quarter at Wells Fargo Center

When Boston Celtics rookie Payton Pritchard checked into his NBA debut around the 3-minute mark in the first quarter of Tuesday night’s 108-99 preseason loss against the Philadelphia 76ers, he only needed 30 seconds to find his first bucket.

Most rookies connect on their first shot in the NBA from an open look; one that’s usually the result of an extra pass that leads to a clean attempt. Payton took a different approach.

Payton Pritchard Scores 16 Points In Celtics Debut

On his first offensive possession, he dribbled up the floor, hit his defender with a crossover dribble, pulled up from 12 feet, and found the bottom of the net. His pull-up jump shot, coupled with his overall performance Tuesday in Philly oozed with confidence that you rarely see from a late first-round pick.

“Honestly, it was just (me) trying to get in the flow of things,” Pritchard said after Tuesday’s loss. “Obviously, it’s a little bit of a different game than college. This is my first time, so a little bit of jitters, so, just really trying to get a feel out there and that was pretty much it.”

Pritchard finished with 16 points on 6-of-10 attempts from the floor, including 2-of-6 from behind the arc to go with 4 rebounds and 4 assists in 21:35. Eager to get started, Payton shook the jitters off by scoring early.

Payton Pritchard On NBA Debut: ‘This Is What We Play The Game For’

At the point guard position, he eventually settled in and made a great first impression as Brad Stevens’ new secondary playmaker. However, on the opposite end of the floor, Payton admits he struggled with the Sixers but is excited to work on coverages and the best ways to fight through screens at the pro level.

“Defensively, it’s just; the game’s different,” Pritchard explained. “So we have different calls. Different, how we’re trying to scheme our defense in our system. It’s just picking that up right away and learning different tricks to get around screens, to make shots tougher and all of that. Offensively, it’s just going to take a little time for it to come second nature when they call a play and get into it.

“We’ve only been practicing for like a week so our flow will just get better and better and guys will start to pick it up quicker and quicker.”

Still, Pritchard was just thrilled to be playing competitive basketball again.

“This is what we play the game for, to play games and this is what all the work is for,” Pritchard said. “For me, I’m just excited to get out here. It’s been since, maybe the beginning of March since I’ve played a game. So get the jitters out, get running up and down the floor, and just kind of get a feeling for the things again.

“It was awesome to be back out here and there’s nothing like a real game setting.”

The Celtics return to action Friday night when they’ll take on the Brooklyn Nets in Boston at TD Garden.

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