The Boston Celtics fought the Miami Heat with some heat of their own Tuesday night in the form of Grant Williams.
Not only was Williams red-hot from long range, where he shot a game-best 4-of-6, but he also brought a fiery spirit that helped drive Boston to a 116-99, sweep-dodging win in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Williams’ role in this series has shifted from not playing at all in Game 1 to becoming Boston’s key source of production off the bench. Over the last three games, he’s put up 35 points on 65.0 percent shooting from the field, including a 63.6 percent clip from long range, along with much-needed tenacity against Miami’s fearless, underdog squad.
We first saw Williams’ spirit come into play during the fourth quarter of Game 2 when he got into a trash-talking match with Jimmy Butler. Williams faced some unjust criticism for “poking the bear” after the C’s lost that game when in reality, he should’ve been universally praised for showing some guts.
Plus, he backed up his fighting words with a team-leading seven points during that final frame to Butler’s nine.
Williams was also one of Boston’s few bright spots during its Game 3 loss, scoring 12 points, just two shy of Jayson Tatum’s team high of 14.
Then in Game 4, he had his best game of the Playoffs, while the C’s had by far their best game of the series. The third-year forward tallied postseason highs of 14 points and six rebounds, along with two assists, one steal, and one block in over 29 minutes of action. He made his open shots, did a great job screening against Miami’s switching, and provided leadership and direction on the defensive end.
Marcus Smart – Mr. Hustle himself – said Williams’ energy played a “huge” role in keeping the team alive.
“You need a guy like Grant on your team to win, and he helps us win games,” said Smart. “When he's playing like that and he's focused like that, we're going to be all right.”
The fact that Williams has been able to stay focused and ready is a feat in itself considering the inconsistency of his usage. He’s registered five DNPs in these Playoffs, plus another five games in which he played fewer than 15 minutes. However, his impact hasn’t wavered.
“For me, it’s just a matter of maintaining perspective,” said Williams. “You never know what your role may be one night, so you just have to make sure you’re prepared for whatever that is, for your teammates. I think mentally this year, it allowed me to grow a lot in understanding that not only do you have to focus on the team throughout whatever’s going on, but now your own personal circumstance, you have to be prepared at any moment.”
Such a mindset may go unnoticed by many watching these games, but not by his teammates.
“He's a great professional,” said Smart. “His professionalism is underrated. We talk a lot about Grant, but we love Grant, and we love everything he brings to this team.”
Right now, Williams is bringing fire and focus. And the rest of the team needs to follow his lead into Game 5 Thursday night.