Payton Pritchard supplying Celtics with intangible qualities: toughness and swagger

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Pritchard relishes these circumstances. He’s one of many hardest guys on the ground and there’s no query about that. The Celtics have all of the expertise to succeed in the NBA Finals, however at occasions they might lack toughness, an enforcer. Pritchard shouldn’t be your conventional NBA enforcer — he doesn’t conjure up recollections of Rick Mahorn — however he’s ready to defend his teammates and himself.

“He threw the ball at Sam and clearly I’m going to be there for my teammates, like all of us are,” Pritchard stated after Sunday’s observe at Kaseya Middle. “I really like chippy and I’ve by no means been one to again down from any state of affairs. It’s sort of the enjoyable a part of the sport. I don’t suppose it’s nothing like loopy. It’s not like now we have hatred essentially on the courtroom, however once we’re on the hardwood, we’re going to battle.

“We’ve seen them each playoffs, so it’s was a rivalry. We play one another seven occasions within the playoffs. That’s a variety of video games in opposition to the identical folks. It brings the most effective out of you.”

The Celtics can’t permit themselves to be bullied on this sequence. The Warmth need to be the extra bodily staff, they need to push the Celtics into frustration, they need to problem their toughness. In earlier years, they’ve received that emotional battle.

Throughout final yr’s Recreation 2 of the Japanese Convention finals, Grant Williams was lambasted for jawing with Jimmy Butler throughout the pivotal second half. Williams didn’t get a lot assist from his teammates, and the Warmth owned the emotional edge within the sequence.

Pritchard is making an attempt to make sure that doesn’t occur once more, and if he has to interject and trade phrases and even shoves, that’s playoff basketball.

“I like that,” Pritchard advised the Globe when requested concerning the chippiness. “It brings out the most effective, the most important rivals. We’re not going to again down. They be chippy and we’ll be chippy again. We’re going to compete at a excessive stage. It’s a part of the sport and naturally it’s not going previous something previous the sport. We’re rivals and we’re bringing our greatest.”

Pritchard doesn’t lack confidence. He feels as if he belongs on the ground, as if he deserves a serious position. It’s been a troublesome previous two years for Pritchard when it comes to taking part in time. He was considered one of Brad Stevens’s favorites off the bench throughout his rookie season.

When Ime Udoka inherited the job, Pritchard’s taking part in time suffered, and final season beneath Joe Mazzulla, he was an afterthought. He performed a complete of 16 seconds throughout final yr’s first-round sequence in opposition to the Hawks.

This time, he’s one of many first gamers off the bench, not solely due to his capacity to shoot, but in addition his knack for rebounding and even utilizing his power to attain on the rim in opposition to greater gamers. In Recreation 3, he gathered a Hauser 3-point miss, leaping for the rebound and scoring a putback in the midst of three Warmth gamers.

“Payton is likely one of the most assured guys I’ve ever been round,” ahead Jayson Tatum stated. “Any given second, he walks on the market like he’s the most effective participant. And to have that confidence is particular and we want him to be like that. He’s been spectacular on each ends, with the ability to assault close-outs, create his personal pictures, create for others. And to have that off the bench is particular.”

When groups aren’t as proficient because the Celtics, their most suitable choice is to problem their toughness, be the extra bodily staff. It wasn’t that the Celtics have been pushed round in Recreation 2, however they undoubtedly weren’t bodily sufficient. Throughout Recreation 3, the Celtics have been the aggressors, irritating Herro into barking at officers and trash-talking, with Herro lastly throwing the ball at Hauser.

The Celtics don’t need to provoke any skirmishes, however they aren’t going to run away from any both. Final yr’s staff was too finesse at occasions and the Warmth capitalized. This yr’s staff is extra assertive, and that was evidenced in Recreation 1 when Jaylen Brown confronted Martin after he dedicated a tough foul on Tatum within the remaining two minutes.

After all, the Warmth are lacking their major enforcer in Butler, however their strategies stay physicality and intimidation. Pritchard has performed an admirable job of letting the Warmth know this version of the Celtics is completely different. He will not be the most important man on the ground however he’s undoubtedly the hardest, and his teammates admire his fearlessness.


Gary Washburn is a Globe columnist. He might be reached at gary.washburn@globe.com. Comply with him @GwashburnGlobe.



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