Saturday, November 11, 2023

Payton Pritchard breaks out of early-season slump against Nets

The Celtics have handed Payton Pritchard more trust this season after a disappointing 2022-23 campaign, in which his role diminished and was berried on the bench at times. President of basketball operations Brad Stevens backed the fourth-year point guard with a $30 million contract this past summer.

But despite a good showing during the team's exhibitions, Pritchard began the regular season on a major slump -- going scoreless in the Celtics first four of five games. The only time he did contribute, was dropping 15 in a 50-point blowout win over the Indiana Pacers.

On Friday, Pritchard finished with 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field and 2-of-7 from 3-point range off the bench to go along with five rebounds (four of which were on the offensive glass) in the Celtics 121-107 In-Season Tournament victory over the Brooklyn Nets.
"I think it started messing with me mentally a little bit," Pritchard admitted following the game. "But then I went back to what made me a great shooter in the first place. So I dialed it back into that. It's kind of just a mental game. It starts to kind of effect you, start second-guessing shots. At the end of the day, you put in too much work. So I just believe in myself."
With the trade of Malcolm Brogdon and Marcus Smart in the offseason, it has been an adjustment for Pritchard, especially on the defensive end. Still, he has his coach Joe Mazzulla's full support when it comes to succeeding in his new role this season.
"Joe came to me and he was like, 'You're going to continue to play,'" said Pritchard. "It's like, you keep impacting winning in other areas and that's all that matters. Shots are going to fall. They're going to make sometimes, but got to keep finding other ways, too.
"I think I missed, what, 11 in a row, since the Indiana game? I'm not going to do that much. And they know that. I've shown through my career here with the Celtics that I'm not going to do that much. They just believe in me, keep going. But always trying to find an impact in other ways. Defensively, offensive rebounds. Any way I can help the team win."
Pritchard tied a career-high four offensive boards, that led to eight second-chance points for the Celtics and while he never panicked during his shooting struggles, he claims to always maintain confidence no matter what.
"Like this is just making me better, Pritchard said. "This is part of the journey. You knew, these slumps, I think at the end of the day will pay dividends and will make me a better overall. Like I'm not hitting shots, so these last couple of games, I had to figure other ways to impact it. So it's making me an all-around player and not just a shooter. So it's part of the game."
Pritchard and the Celtics will look to get back to winning when they host the Toronto Raptors Saturday on a second night of a back-to-back. 

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of The Associated Press

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