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Celtics Notebook

Payton Pritchard back in time to replace injured Marcus Smart

Celtics guard Payton Pritchard stepped off an airplane Wednesday and went directly to the basketball court to take the place of Marcus Smart (thigh contusion) against the Pacers.Mary Schwalm/Associated Press

Celtics point guard Payton Pritchard was cleared to rejoin the Celtics on Wednesday after missing four games due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols. The problem was that the Celtics were in Indianapolis to face the Pacers that day, so Pritchard boarded the first available flight and was pressed into immediate action when Marcus Smart was ruled out because of a thigh contusion.

“That was a little different,” Pritchard said. “I’m not used to that.”

He was 1 for 5 in just over 11 minutes of action. But on Friday night Smart was once again sidelined, this time because of COVID-19 protocols, and Pritchard stepped in after more traditional preparation and scored 17 points on 7-for-10 shooting in a loss to the 76ers.


“I just think I’m just trying to go out there and play,” Pritchard said. “When you get to play consistent minutes I feel like that kind of happens naturally. I mean for me, my mind-set is just to go in there and compete, help the team win, and obviously do what I can to be a spark off the bench.”

Pritchard said he did not experience coronavirus symptoms after testing positive last week. But he was unable to practice or even work out in gyms, so he mostly passed his time by walking around his neighborhood, watching television, and keeping his ball handling crisp.

“I’m sure the people below me probably were not as happy, you know, with dribbling the ball and stuff,” Pritchard said. “But I didn’t get any complaints.”

Celtics All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have rarely dominated at the same time this season. They had one encouraging outburst when they made 22 of 38 shots and combined for 67 points in Wednesday’s win over the Pacers, but they followed up by going 14 for 35 and committing 12 turnovers in Friday’s loss to the 76ers.


Coach Ime Udoka said they’re trying to balance being dominant scorers with making the right decisions and finding open teammates, too.

“It’s been obviously one of the main goals coming into this season is to get them to do more than just score,” Udoka said. “At times we look really good doing it and at times we get rattled and kind of revert back to some things that make us less successful.

“So whether it’s referees, or getting caught in individual matchups, or whatever the case may be, or poor scoring in general. Sometimes they take the onus on themselves sometimes and I think just being consistent as far as that and not reverting back to some old habits obviously makes us a better team so that’s the challenge every night and an area they’ve grown. We’ve seen flashes, now it’s just putting it together more often than not.”

TD Garden’s new COVID-19 policy for fans went into effect for the Celtics’ game against the Bulls on Saturday. Now, fans 12 and over will be required to show proof of vaccination in order to gain entry. Previously, fans were able to show either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.

Celtics guard Marcus Smart on Saturday missed his second consecutive game due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols … Maine Celtics head coach Jarell Christian is taking a leave of absence for personal reasons, the team announced Saturday. The team will be led by associate head coach and former Celtics assistant Alex Barlow while Christian is out.


Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at adam.himmelsbach@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.