NBA Finals: Celtics call Pritchard 3 'play of the game' in Game 2

NBA Finals: Celtics call Pritchard triple ‘play of the game’ in Game 2

/ 03:21 PM June 10, 2024

Payton Pritchard Boston Celtics beat Dallas Mavericks Game 3 NBA Finals

Payton Pritchard #11 of the Boston Celtics reacts after his made three-point basket against the Dallas Mavericks to end the third quarter in Game Two of the 2024 NBA Finals at TD Garden on June 09, 2024 in Boston, Massachusetts. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images/AFP

Payton Pritchard doesn’t care much about what his line in the stat sheet looks like, which is one of the many things that endears him to Joe Mazzulla and the Boston Celtics.

He was sent into Game 2 of the NBA Finals with 3.3 seconds remaining in the third quarter, with one mission: Take a desperation 3-pointer before time expires. It’s a low-percentage shot, and it’s no secret that plenty of NBA players won’t take them because it can hurt their stats.

Pritchard takes them happily. And this time, it worked.


A 34-footer, from the NBA Finals logo just inside the midcourt stripe, bounced off the backboard and in for a nine-point lead going into the fourth quarter. They were Pritchard’s only three points of Game 2, and they were an unforgettable part of Boston’s 105-98 win over the Dallas Mavericks.

“I think the play of the game can’t go unnoticed, the humility of our team, is Payton’s shot at the end of the quarter,” said Mazzulla, the Celtics’ coach. “You see guys around the league pass up on that shot or fake like they want to take it, so that their numbers don’t get messed up. He takes pride in taking that, and that’s winning basketball.”

READ: NBA Finals: Luka Doncic triple-double not enough for Mavericks

The play was one that the Celtics call for Pritchard. He caught the inbounds pass while building a head of steam, took three dribbles, stopped just in time and let it fly. It went in, he started jumping around like a madman and a sold-out crowd at TD Garden followed suit.


“The energy that Payton brings, him just having the (courage) to take that shot … it was definitely a confidence boost,” Celtics guard Jrue Holiday said.

According to SportRadar, Pritchard is one of five players in the NBA with at least 13 attempts from 30 or more feet in the final 3 seconds of a period this season. Indiana’s Tyrese Haliburton went 5 for 20 in those moments, Denver’s Nikola Jokic went 1 for 16, Milwaukee’s Damian Lillard went 4 for 14 and Dallas’ Luka Doncic is 0 for 14 on those tries.


They’re all superstars, all max-contract guys who don’t have to worry if their 3-point percentage takes a tiny hit.

Pritchard — now 2 for 13 on such heaves this season — isn’t a max guy. Not even close. He sacrifices the numbers anyway, and that’s what Mazzulla was raving about after Game 2.

READ: NBA Finals: Celtics hold off Mavericks for 2-0 lead

“It shows belief he put me in that situation, knowing I could hit that shot.” Pritchard said. “To believe in me, it means a lot as a player.”

And it wasn’t some throwaway moment, either.

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Dallas had just cut a double-digit deficit down to six, a very manageable margin going into the final 12 minutes. Pritchard’s shot wasn’t just three big points; it breathed life into Boston going into that closing quarter.

“He has the humility and selflessness to not care if he misses it,” Mazzulla said. “He practices it and has an understanding of how a shot like that can impact the end of a quarter and it can impact the run that a team makes. So, they had went on a run to end the quarter, and I thought that shot kind of gave us a little bit of poise and a little bit of momentum that we needed heading into the fourth quarter. That was big-time.”

TAGS: Boston Celtics, NBA Finals, Payton Pritchard

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