Payton Pritchard has been inconsistent in his first nine NBA games. Most rookies are. The highs are dazzling, such as a 23-point outing against the Toronto Raptors. The lows are, well, low, such as his scoreless effort against the Detroit Pistons earlier in the season. But on Wednesday, he showed the basketball world why the Celtics are excited about his future by saving them from one of the worst collapses in recent NBA history.
With 1:17 remaining on the clock against the Miami Heat, the Celtics led 105-95. At that moment, the Celtics had a 98.1 percent chance to win, according to ESPN's win probability metric. Things went fully off of the rails from there. Duncan Robinson hit a 3-pointer. Jayson Tatum missed a shot. Duncan Robinson got fouled on another made 3-pointer and proceeded to make the free-throw. Miami got yet another stop. Goran Dragic hit a 3-pointer. Tie game. Marcus Smart misses a layup, and just like that, we're going to overtime thanks to 77 of the worst seconds of basketball any team could play.
Or are we? Sneaking in behind the play, Pritchard managed to get into the lane, secure the offensive rebound and attempt the game-winning layup in the air before the buzzer sounded. It was successful. Celtics 107, Heat 105. Boston wins.
Pritchard was fairly unspectacular in the game, scoring six points on 3-of-10 shooting, but that's what tends to happen with rookies. They're up-and-down. Pritchard was up when Boston needed him to be, showing the sort of situational awareness and savvy that most veterans even lack. Pritchard has a long way to go before finding that coveted consistency but flashes like this paint a very encouraging picture of his future.