Nesmith, Pritchard Finding Offensive Flow Out West
After spending the first quarter of the season trying to establish an offensive rhythm, both Aaron Nesmith and Payton Pritchard are now finding their flow out west.
The sophomore duo has combined for 45 points off the bench in the last two games, pouring in 30 during Saturday night’s 145-119 win over the Portland Trail Blazers, and then 15 more during Tuesday night’s 117-102 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Most of Pritchard’s points came Saturday night during a 19-point effort in his hometown of Portland. Sixteen of those points were produced during the fourth quarter, which was more than half of the number of points he had scored over the course of the entire season up to that point (30 total points in 18 appearances).
Nesmith tacked on 11 points, finishing two shy of his season-high, while also logging three rebounds, three assists, and a game-best plus/minus rating of +29 in 22 minutes of action.
Their momentum carried over into Tuesday night when head coach Ime Udoka called their numbers in search of an offensive spark while the Celtics were down big to the Lakers. Nesmith first entered the game late in the third quarter when Boston was trailing by 19 and Pritchard was inserted soon after at the start of the fourth frame.
They, along with the rest of the second unit, put up a fight against L.A.’s star-studded starting group and were able to cut a 20-point deficit in half with less than two minutes remaining, before falling by 15. Nesmith had another strong effort of 11 points, while Pritchard added six points and a season-high five assists.
Prior to Saturday night, Pritchard had not scored more than six points in a game since last May. In fact, he had scored only eight points in his previous nine outings combined. But in his last two appearances, he’s scored 25 points in 30 minutes of action.
Nesmith, meanwhile, hadn’t scored more than five points in any of his previous 12 outings. He’s now put up 20 points in 36 minutes over the last two games.
These last two games have been reminiscent of the impact that they both made during their rookie campaigns, especially toward the end of last season when they were both regular contributors off the bench. This season, however, they’ve both had inconsistent roles, which has led to inconsistent numbers.
Still, they have both stayed ready for their names to be called and have maintained the same level-headed mindset that carried them through last season.
“It’s part of the NBA. It’s your job – you get paid to stay ready,” Pritchard said following Saturday night’s game. “And when your opportunity comes, you’ve gotta deliver for your team.
“For me, obviously this has been a new experience from last year. Some games you don’t play and then sometimes you get in there. So for me, it’s just finding that confidence to always stay ready, and that happens with my work and my daily habits.”
Nesmith is staying on top of his daily habits as well.
“Just taking care of my body, making sure I’m getting my rest, making sure I’m getting my sleep, making sure I eat right and do the things people don’t really see,” the 21-year-old wing said Monday. “And making sure if I do that every day, that I’m ready for each game.”
Even though both games were mostly out of reach – one way or the other – when they received the bulk of their minutes, it was still valuable playing time. It was important for them to experience the thrill of a blowout win Saturday night, and just as important to get to play against the likes of Anthony Davis, LeBron James, and Russell Westbrook Tuesday night, against whom Nesmith and Pritchard held their own.
“I go out there and take every opportunity that I can get because it's a real game,” said Pritchard. “Every time I step on that floor, I take advantage of it and try to go out there and give it 100 percent."
Having such a mindset has paid off for both Pritchard and Nesmith in the last two games, as they have finally been able to get into an offensive rhythm.