Doc Draws an Ace, Williams, During Game 5
NEW YORK – The Celtics versus Knicks series is no longer a chess match. It’s a card game, and Doc Rivers may have just pulled out the ace he’s been looking for.
Rivers played a new hand Wednesday night in New York as his team faced elimination in Game 5 against the Knicks. He trimmed his rotation all the way down to seven players.
Paul Pierce. Kevin Garnett. Jeff Green. Jason Terry. Brandon Bass. Avery Bradley. Terrence Williams.
Hold on... Terrence Williams?
Yup. You read that correctly. There’s your ace.
With the 2012-13 season (and who knows what else) on the line, Rivers turned to a guy who had logged only 38 career playoff minutes before Wednesday night. Why, you might ask? Call it a gut feeling.
“Sometimes you pull out a card,” was Rivers’ explanation as to why he called on Williams.
That card Rivers pulled out Wednesday night happened to be an ace. As in an ace ball handler and an ace defender.
Williams provided a sizable boost in both of those categories during Game 5. And boy, were they needed.
New York knows that the Celtics are playing without Rajon Rondo, their only true ball handler. That’s why the Knicks are sucking up Boston’s air space like a vacuum during this series. New York’s ball pressure had been forcing the Celtics into ugly turnovers while drastically cutting into Boston’s shot clock.
Teams on the wrong end of those circumstances don’t win playoff games. So Rivers drew a card, and it happened to be No. 55.
Williams, a longtime combo guard who is learning to play point guard with Boston, helped alleviate all of those issues. He played the game of his life, even if it consisted of only four points, four rebounds and two assists.
The Celtics needed a way to beat New York’s pressure and actually run its offensive sets. Williams, while displaying supreme confidence and composure, made that happen.
“He controlled the ball,” Rivers said of his diamond-in-the-rough point guard. “He can handle the pressure and bring it up the floor. He got guys into our stuff. He allowed us to get organized.”
Isn’t that the truth. Williams calmly handled all of the ball pressure New York threw at him while orchestrating Boston’s offense. He took the pressure off of Pierce, Green and Terry, allowing them to play off of the ball. He directed traffic as if he knew the Celtics offense inside-out.
Simply put, Boston’s offense was better with him than it was without him. How much better, you might ask? Consider these numbers.
The Celtics shot 50 percent from the field (12-of-24) while Williams was on the floor. They shot 43.5 percent (20-of-46) while he was on the bench. Thirteen of the team’s 20 assists were tallied during Williams’ 17 minutes of action.
No one can deny that impact. The offensive numbers don’t lie. Neither do the ones at the other end, which indicate that Williams was also a game-changing defender during Game 5.
Not many would expect that last sentence to be a truth considering the bad rap Williams has been stuck with regarding his defensive abilities. The naysayers claimed that he didn’t have it in him to make a difference on defense, but as Rivers said on Wednesday, Williams is begging to differ.
“What we are asking him to do is what he has never done before – he is defending,” Rivers said. “Everybody told me he can’t defend but he is proving everyone wrong. He is doing it for us.”
Against New York’s engine, no less.
Raymond Felton has been a dominating force for the Knicks during this series. Not even Bradley has been able to slow the man down. Felton’s penetration has put Boston’s defense in a bind time and time again. That bind disappeared while Williams was in the game.
Williams’ size and athleticism seem to be Felton’s kryptonite. New York’s point guard shot just 42.9 percent from the field Wednesday night while Williams was on the floor, as opposed to a 58.3 percent clip while Williams was on the bench, according to NBA.com/stats. Felton also did not dish out a single assist while Williams was in the game.
That is one heck of a drop in efficiency, and it had a lot to do with Williams’ presence. Rivers surely caught onto that trend as he watched Wednesday’s game, and his suspicions will be confirmed when he dives into the advanced metrics of the matchup.
He won’t have to dive too far to realize that he made a lucky selection Wednesday night. Rivers drew from the deck and found an unexpected ace in his hands. That ace goes by the name of Terrence Williams, and it has changed this card game dramatically.