Third-year point guard Payton Pritchard has played sparingly this season, appearing in just five of the Celtics’ first 12 games. With Malcolm Brogdon nursing a hamstring injury, Pritchard got more run than usual against the Nuggets (15 minutes), putting his stamp on Friday night's game with one of the great hustle sequences you’ll ever see. Award this man all the Tommy Points.
That’s two offensive rebounds by the smallest player on the court with Pritchard somehow eluding DeAndre Jordan for a walk-in layup, sending the capacity crowd at TD Garden into hysterics. It’s this relentless and dogged determination that makes Pritchard such a fun watch, giving Boston a needed jolt off the bench. Marcus Smart—who knows a thing or two about hustle—seemed to love every second of it, admiring Pritchard’s tenacity on the offensive end, contesting rebounds with the strength and savvy of a much larger player.
Meanwhile, Denver coach Mike Malone was rightfully fuming, needing a timeout to regroup after a lifeless possession. The Nuggets didn’t have their best rebounder on the floor—reigning MVP Nikola Jokic was getting a breather—but that’s no excuse to get bullied by a 6’1” pipsqueak who entered Friday averaging a single rebound per game and only 2.1 for his career.
The Celtics cruised to a 19-point victory, running their winning streak to five with a chance to make it six straight Saturday against Detroit. Pritchard finished with 11 points on the night, his first double-digit performance since Game 5 of last year's Eastern Conference Finals against Miami.
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