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Celtics’ surprise standout rookie Payton Pritchard leaves game with knee sprain

New York Knicks v Boston Celtics

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 17: Payton Pritchard #11 of the Boston Celtics handles the ball during the game against the New York Knicks on January 17, 2021 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

Celtics’ rookie and fan-favorite Payton Pritchard had to be helped back to the locker room in the first quarter Friday night with what is officially being called a knee sprain. Let’s hope that’s all it is.

Pritchard was guarding Philly’s Shake Milton as he drove the left side of the lane, while behind Pritchard Dwight Howard and Jaylen Brown were battling for rebound position. Howard pushed Brown, who lost his balance and fell into Pritchard’s right knee.

Boston said only that it’s a sprain and Pritchard would not return to the game.

It’s not a good sign that Pritchard could not put weight on his right leg and it took two Celtics staffers to help him back to the locker room. An MRI will eventually give a definitive diagnosis. Hopefully, it is just a sprain.

Pritchard, the No. 26 pick out of Oregon, has earned his way into the Boston rotation and the hearts of Celtics’ fans. His hustle and decision making forced Stevens to play him more than 22 minutes a night, and the result was 8.3 points as he shot 43.6% from three. However, it was his knack for being in the right spot that was most impressive. Just ask Miami.