Payton Pritchard records first career triple-double in Celtics’ win over Hawks

The Boston Celtics ended their regular season with a 124-108 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday night. The game had no implications for the playoff standings, as the Celtics had already clinched the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference and the Hawks had secured the fifth spot.

However, it was a memorable night for rookie guard Payton Pritchard, who recorded his first career triple-double with 20 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds.

Pritchard became the first Celtics rookie to achieve a triple-double since Rajon Rondo in 2007, and the fourth in franchise history. He also joined Larry Bird and Antoine Walker as the only Celtics players to have a 20-point triple-double off the bench. Pritchard was one of six Celtics players to score in double figures, as they shot 51.1 percent from the field and 40.5 percent from three-point range.

The Hawks, who rested most of their starters and key rotation players, were led by Skylar Mays with 19 points and Onyeka Okongwu with 15 points and 13 rebounds.

They trailed by as many as 23 points in the third quarter, but cut the deficit to seven in the fourth quarter before the Celtics pulled away. The Hawks finished the season with a 41-31 record, a remarkable turnaround from their 14-20 start that led to the firing of coach Lloyd Pierce and the hiring of Nate McMillan.

The Celtics improved to 36-36, but they will have to face the Washington Wizards in the play-in tournament on Tuesday night for a chance to secure the eighth seed and face the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the playoffs.

The Celtics will be without Jaylen Brown, who is out for the season with a wrist injury, and Robert Williams III, who missed his fourth straight game with a toe injury. They will need Pritchard and other role players to step up and support Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker if they want to extend their season.

Here are some takeaways from the Celtics vs. Hawks game:

  • Payton Pritchard showed his potential as a playmaker and scorer. The 26th pick in the 2020 draft, Pritchard averaged 7.7 points and 1.8 assists in 19.1 minutes per game in his rookie season. He was mostly used as a spot-up shooter and a secondary ball-handler, but he showed his ability to run the offense and create for himself and others against the Hawks. He had nine assists in the first half alone, finding his teammates for easy baskets in transition and in the half-court. He also scored from all three levels, hitting four three-pointers, driving to the rim and pulling up for mid-range jumpers. Pritchard has a high basketball IQ, a quick release and a fearless mentality that make him a valuable asset for the Celtics.
  • The Celtics bench outplayed the Hawks bench. The Celtics had a 62-37 advantage in bench points, as they got contributions from several players who did not see much action during the season. Aaron Nesmith had 16 points and six rebounds, Tremont Waters had 14 points and five assists, Jabari Parker had 12 points and seven rebounds and Tacko Fall had eight points and nine rebounds. The Celtics bench played with energy, hustle and confidence, showing their depth and potential for next season.
  • The Hawks have a bright future ahead of them. Even though they lost to the Celtics, the Hawks have plenty of reasons to be optimistic about their future. They have a young core of Trae Young, John Collins, Clint Capela, De’Andre Hunter, Kevin Huerter, Cam Reddish and Okongwu, who have shown their talent and potential throughout the season. They also have veteran leaders like Danilo Gallinari, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Lou Williams, who provide scoring and experience. They have a coach in McMillan who has instilled a winning culture and a defensive identity in them. They have a chance to make some noise in the playoffs against the New York Knicks in the first round, and they could be even better next season with more health and continuity.