Monday, April 15, 2024

Celtics 132, Wizards 122: Payton Pritchard powers C's to victory with near triple double on Mike Gorman Day

In what was the regular-season finale, the Celtics (64-18) finished with their best record since the 2008-09 campaign after defeating the Washington Wizards (15-67) 132-122 Sunday afternoon at TD Garden.

The Celtics top six of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Jrue Holiday, Derrick White, Kristaps Porzingis, and Al Horford all sat out for the second consecutive game for Boston -- after missing the team's 131-98 win over the Charlotte Hornets Friday night -- as they should be well rested heading into the postseason. 

Payton Pritchard set a new career high from his previous 31 two days prior, by dropping 38 points on 15-of shooting, including 4-of-6 from behind the arc plus, 12 assists, and 9 rebounds. Svi Mykhailiuk also put in his season high -- matching a career-best -- 26 points on 10-of-13 shooting and 6-of-8 from long distance to go along with five rebounds and five assists in a starting role.

Pritchard continued to set himself apart from the rest of Boston's depth pieces and was clearly the best player on the floor for a second straight game. The Oregon product has been totally accepting of his role this year, despite what he has demonstrated to be capable of with a more sizable usage.
"I already knew I could do this on a nightly basis, but when you have a team with as much talent as we have, you have to do other things to help winning," Pritchard said during his postgame comments. "This is a great performance, but ultimately I'm here to win a championship and whatever that's asked of me I will do that."
Neemias Queta recorded 19 points, nine rebounds and six blocks in 19 minutes off the bench, while Sam Hauser added 16 points in Boston's second consecutive win to a wrap up their regular season.

It has now been back-to-back outings that the Celtics depth has won Boston the game from start to finish with head coach Joe Mazzulla having the utmost confidence in that group.
"They've done pretty much everything throughout [the season], they've started games, they've not played, and they've played," Mazzulla explained. "They understand how to impact the game in different ways, so [the playoffs] won't be an adjustment for them. I think our depth is a key and a strength of ours heading into the playoffs."
For the Wizards, fellow Oregon Duck Eugene Omoruyi led the way with 26 points and five assists on 11-of-17 shooting and 4-of-6 from beyond the arc. Jared Butler also chipped in 22 points and seven assists on 9-of-19 from the field and 2-of-4 from 3.

While Boston was never in any real danger of losing this contest, leading by as many as 24 points, the afternoon was all about TV play-by-play announcer Mike Gorman -- who celebrated 43 years of being the voice of the Celtics during his last regular season call.

The Mayor of Boston Michelle Wu, who was in attendance, declared April 14 as "Mike Gorman Day" and the Celtics honored their legendary broadcaster throughout the game. Wizards' interim coach and Winchester, MA native Brian Keefe began his pre-game presser by recognizing the Hall of Famer that he grew up listening to.
"Before we get started, I want to acknowledge Mike Gorman. I grew up listening to him," Keefe said in a room full of reporters. "This guy left a tremendous mark on me… I just wanted to acknowledge him and what he's meant to this community -- because I'm part of that community. I listened to formative years of basketball in the 80s when I grew up here. It's a great honor for him today. He's a big historical figure in this city. 
"Some of those calls he made in some of those big games, those things will last forever for me."
Gorman plans to retire at the end of the season, but not before being part of the local broadcast of the Celtics first-round series -- with their opponent still pending -- as that will be determined via the Play-In Tournament. The potential suitors are the Philadelphia 76ers, Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, and Atlanta Hawks. Game 1 is set to be played Sunday, April 21 at TD Garden with the tip-off time yet to be announced.

Game Notes:

Boston hit 57.3% of their field goal attempts, including going 16-of-32 (50%) from deep, while the Wizards were 47.6% from the floor and 14-of-38 (36.8%) from 3-point range. The C's won the rebound battle 48-36 but were outscored in the paint 68-60. The Celtics dished out 29 assists on 51 baskets to Washington's 33 dimes on 49 made shots.

Eli Weisberger

Photo used courtesy of The Associated Press

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