Pritchard, White Shift Energy in Comeback Win vs. OKC

Marcus Smart arrived at TD Garden Monday night wearing a dark green t-shirt with the words “The Energy is About to Shift” imprinted across the chest. When he walked by a throng of cameras, the veteran Celtics guard pointed his two index fingers toward the message, which was famously coined by teammate Jaylen Brown last season.

It was as if Smart knew exactly what was about to unfold in his team's matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

What followed for the C's was a stagnant start that turned into an electric finish, as they flipped a 15-point third-quarter deficit into a 126-122 win.

For the first 35 minutes, this seemed like the type of game that just wouldn’t go Boston’s way. Its shots weren’t falling, the defense was lackluster, and there was just a general lack of rhythm.

But in the final 13 minutes, the C’s were brilliant, outscoring OKC 42-26 while forcing nine turnovers en route to their seventh straight win.

As for what sparked the energy shift, Smart gave all the credit to Payton Pritchard and Derrick White. The bench-unit backcourt mates combined for 26 points and changed the entire flow of the game with their tenacity starting late in the third quarter.

“The first unit was a little sluggish,” Smart admitted after the game, while proudly wearing his prophetic t-shirt in told-you-so fashion. “We tried, but guys just couldn’t find it. And those two came in and they gave us the jolt we needed. So the energy definitely shifted with those two guys coming in the game.”

Pritchard started to shift the tide with an aggressive burst to close out the third frame. In the final 45 seconds, he managed to make a 32-foot 3-pointer, snag a steal, and then deliver a buzzer-beating layup to singlehandedly cut a 12-point deficit down to seven.

Heading into the final frame, White felt inspired by the way Pritchard’s energy and wanted to add to it.

“Every time P’s in, I feel like he just changes the energy of the game,” said White, who led all bench scorers with 16 points. “So I’m just trying to follow his lead.”

And so, he did. White went on to score nine points in the fourth quarter, including five critical points in the final 62 seconds. He didn’t miss a shot the entire frame, during which he also snagged two of his game-high four steals.

Seeing two second-unit guys make such an impact had a contagious effect on some of the other guys, such as Smart and Jayson Tatum who erupted down the stretch, scoring 10 points apiece in a 37-point Celtics fourth quarter.

“It gives you the energy you need,” Smart said of Pritchard and White’s effort, “because when you see those guys and you’re happy for them, then all of a sudden you’re filled with adrenaline, then all of a sudden you get that second wind and say, ‘You know what? I’m gonna keep pushing, I’m gonna keep going.’ And then the mud starts to loosen up a little bit, and then you got one foot out of the mud, and then you can get your other one, and now you’re off rolling. So when those two came in, that’s exactly what it did. It allowed us to get one foot out of the mud and get our other one out as well.”

Basically, Pritchard and White embodied Brown’s famous momentum-changing phrase.

“They changed the whole game, the whole trajectory,” said Brown, himself, who logged 26 points, six rebounds, six assists, and two steals. “In a game like this, when we were looking for a spark, Payton and Derrick did a great job of bringing that to us.”