Payton Pritchard had rarely seen the floor this season for the Celtics, a casualty of a deep bench Boston possesses.
Pritchard registered seven DNPs through the first 11 games, but with Malcolm Brogdon sidelined Friday night against the Denver Nuggets, it opened up an opportunity for playing time for the third-year guard.
And with his first meaningful minutes of the season, Pritchard reminded everyone of the impact he can make. It was hard not to notice Pritchard flying around and making an abundance of hustle plays, which served as a spark to go along with his 11 points — the most of any Celtics reserve — in a 131-112 win for Boston at TD Garden.
It certainly hasn’t been an ideal start to the season for Pritchard due to his lack of playing time, but his ability to stay prepared made him ready when finally called upon.
“I’ve said it to him, I’ve said it to others, no matter what situation he’s in, when his name gets called I trust that he’s going to be ready to play, I trust he’s going to know the game plan and I trust he’s going to have a great mindset,” Celtics interim coach Joe Mazzulla said, as seen on NBC Sports Boston postgame coverage. “It’s a compliment to the locker room that the guys like each other and they keep each other engaged. And it’s a real compliment to him that regardless of the circumstances he’s going to execute.”
Pritchard’s tenaciousness as an undersized guard was on full display. Four of his five rebounds were of the offensive variety, as he wasn’t afraid to stick his nose in amongst the trees.
It led to one stellar situation early in the second quarter from Pritchard as his hustle took over. He kept a possession alive twice, first grabbing an offensive and then helping Derrick White corral one. Then when Sam Hauser’s 3-pointer went in-and-out and it looked like DeAndre Jordan had finally controlled a rebound for the Nuggets, Pritchard swooped in undetected, stealing the ball to surprise Jordan and finishing the layup.
The all-out effort earned Pritchard a rousing ovation from the Celtics bench as Marcus Smart and Grant Williams rushed to him to praise the work he did with Denver calling a timeout.
It was those types of plays that highlighted Pritchard’s performance which he displayed when given the chance, can be a key contributor.