Payton Pritchard’s buzzer-beater from nearly halfcourt broke Mavs’ spirit in NBA Finals

After getting blown out in Game 1 of the 2024 NBA Finals, the Dallas Mavericks were determined to put in a better performance Sunday night in Game 2. And for much of the contest, they accomplished that task. Dallas trailed by just three at the half and limited Jayson Tatum to just five points at the break after a scoreless first quarter. As the seconds ticked down in the third, a pair of free throws from Kyrie Irving cut a Boston lead to six, and it looked as if Dallas would keep their momentum into the final quarter.

Then, everything changed.

Reserve guard Payton Pritchard let fly with a 38-footer from the NBA Finals logo on the TD Garden floor, banking in the shot as time expired in the third:

In the blink of an eye, the crowd at TD Garden was right back in the contest, the Celtics had a nine-point lead heading into the fourth, and the Mavericks were wondering just what they had to do to get a win in Boston after the shot ended a 7-0 Dallas run.

After Boston’s 105-98 win, praise flowed in around the Celtics’ locker room for Prichard, with Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla calling it the “play of the game.”

“I think the play of the game can’t go unnoticed, the humility of our team, is Payton’s shot at the end of the quarter,” Mazzulla said following Boston’s win. “You see guys around the league pass up on that shot or fake like they want to take it, so that their numbers don’t get messed up. He takes pride in taking that, and that’s winning basketball. So that’s the first and foremost.”

Derrick White, who had a few big plays of his own in the win, joined the chorus of praise.

“That’s what Payton Pritchard does,” added White. “If you watch us late clock, he doesn’t shy away from that moment. That was a big-time shot, kind of got us momentum. You just love Payton. You love competing with him. It was a big-time shot.”

“The energy that Payton brings, him just having the (courage) to take that shot … it was definitely a confidence boost,” added Jrue Holiday. Holiday’s effort Sunday night should not be ignored, as the Celtics guard led Boston scorers with 26 points, including hitting 11-of-14 from the floor.

Mazzulla noted that the shot from Pritchard was something Boston desperately needed at that point in the game.

“He has the humility and selflessness to not care if he misses it,” Mazzulla said. “He practices it and has an understanding of how a shot like that can impact the end of a quarter and it can impact the run that a team makes. So, they had went on a run to end the quarter, and I thought that shot kind of gave us a little bit of poise and a little bit of momentum that we needed heading into the fourth quarter. That was big-time.”

Game 3 sees the series shift back to Dallas on Wednesday night, and we’ll see what the Mavericks can do to stop Boston’s momentum.

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