Sad News: Boston Celtics Catch Fire Now Due To….

On February 12, 2022, the Boston Celtics were sitting in seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings with a disappointing 32-25 record.

Despite a roster with uber stars like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, and quality role pieces like Marcus SmartRobert Williams, and Grant Williams, the Celtics were struggling to gain traction and looked destined to miss out on home-court advantage in the play-offs, or worse, find themselves having to deal with a play-in game.

However, Boston has turned a corner in the past six weeks, going 14-3 and moving from seventh place to fourth place in the East, comfortably in the playoff picture and still fighting for home-court advantage, now ahead of struggling teams like Chicago and Cleveland.

While there are a handful of reasons for this surge, including the performance of trade deadline acquisition Derrick White, one key piece has been the emergence of former Oregon Ducks guard Payton Pritchard.

Pritchard was a key piece off the bench for the Celtics as a rookie during the 2020-21 season, playing just under 20 minutes per game and averaging 7.7 points and 2.4 rebounds per game, while shooting 41.1% from deep.

However, he struggled to find his footing early in the season – the dreaded sophomore slump – and ended up relegated to the outside of the rotation for the first part of the year.

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From opening night until February 12 – when Boston was still in seventh place – Pritchard averaged just 12.2 minutes per game. He was shooting just 37.9% from the field, and while his 37% mark from deep was still good it was not up to his usual production – and neither were his averages of 4.8 points, 1.7 assists, and 1.6 rebounds per night.

Since then, however, Pritchard has played his way back into the rotation in a major way. The 14-3 streak over the past few weeks has seen Pritchard average 16.9 minutes per game, and the increased numbers speak for themselves: 8.5 points, 2.4 assists, 2.1 rebounds, 52% from the field, and a whopping 47.9% from three.

He’s been really, really good in the past week alone, going 17-for-24 (70.8%) from three in his past four games while averaging 15 points and 3.5 assists. Boston is 4-0 in that time and Pritchard is a staggering +86 across those four contests.

The West Linn product and Oregon star is and always has been a winner, so it should not be a surprise to anyone that he is stepping up when his team needs him most. And when the playoffs roll around, Pritchard will almost certainly be at his best.

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