LAS VEGAS — The Celtics have played well enough to qualify for their first summer league championship game Tuesday at Thomas & Mack Center, a byproduct of their dominant stretch over the past three games.
Because of COVID-19 protocols, the summer league tournament was condensed from previous years, with the teams with the top two point differentials and best records automatically entered in the title game.
Previously, all 30 teams would have been placed in a tournament bracket after four games to determine a champion.
The Celtics conducted their final summer practice Monday at the Mendenhall Center and are not sure who will be in the lineup for the title game against the Sacramento Kings.
The interesting twist is with Payton Pritchard, the second-year guard who left the game after Thursday’s win over Orlando to play in a Portland Pro-Am. After making national headlines by scoring 92 points in that game, Pritchard tweeted that he was back in Las Vegas to help the Celtics win the summer league title.
Pritchard has proven enough to Celtics’ brass with his summer performance and generally the best summer players are held out of the final games for fear of injury. But Pritchard apparently wants to rejoin his teammates and help win a title.
“I don’t know if he makes sense for him to come back,” summer league coach Joe Mazzulla said. “As a coach obviously you want him there but I think we’ll know more [Tuesday morning].”
The Las Vegas Summer League has grown to be the most publicized summer session and now draws all 30 teams. The league decided to name a champion in 2013 and it has served as a reward for the rookies, younger players and free agents who participate.
There’s definitely something to play for and Mazzulla said the club has not decided whether Pritchard will play. The Celtics team is already stacked with young veterans such as Pritchard, Romeo Langford, Carsen Edwards and Aaron Nesmith. In addition, players such as former second-round pick Bruno Fernando and Marlborough native and former Notre Dame center Zach Auguste.
“They’re great players and they’re smart players,” Mazzulla said of his team. “And they have the humility to play hard no matter what. I showed them a clip and it was 78-53 [on Saturday] and we had one of our hardest-playing defensive possessions of the game. That was the first clip of film session. And I told them if you always have the humility and professionalism to always play hard you’re going to be successful. I think that’s a huge factor.”
Two-way contract guard Sam Hauser, who has shot 45.5 percent from the 3-point line in summer league, said the team is taking this final game seriously.
“I think we’ve been excited to play in every single game,” he said. “It’s a chance to showcase yourself and show what you have to offer. Us being 4-0, it’s been fun to play the way we have because everybody has been sharing the ball and showing what they can do. We’re excited to take this thing home. We didn’t come here to lose.”
Meanwhile, former second-round pick Yam Madar, who missed Saturday’s win with a groin strain, returned to the team’s light workout and could play Tuesday. Madar is making a push for one of the team’s final roster spots and has been impressive in summer league.
On the Kings side, center Chimezie Metu will not play Tuesday after being suspended by the NBA for throwing a punch at Dallas’ Eugene Omoruyi after a hard foul in Sunday’s win. Metu averaged 10 points and 6.8 rebounds in four games.