Boston's 'Others' Dominate Raps While Showcasing Full Potential
The performance of Boston’s “others” should garner just as much, if not more attention than Jayson Tatum scoring 40 points during Monday night’s runaway win over Toronto.
That’s because Boston’s fate this season could very well depend on those others.
Tatum or teammate Jaylen Brown are each fully capable of carrying the Celtics to individual wins during the playoffs. In order to win series and compete for a title, however, the rest of the squad will need to deliver the way it did against Toronto.
You name the Celtics rotational reserve and he played well Monday night.
Payton Pritchard continued to impress while logging new career highs of 23 points and eight assists. Grant Williams re-emerged from a brief slump to total 14 points, six boards and three blocks. Rob Williams notched a new career high with 15 rebounds to go along with 11 points and two blocked shots. Semi Ojeleye matched his career high with eight rebounds while canning three of his five 3-pointers and scoring 12 points.
As Brad Stevens said after the game, “Tatum was tremendous tonight, but we had a lot of really good performances.”
Those performances were dearly needed, because the Celtics were shorthanded with five players, including the team’s three most established point guards, all missing Monday’s game on the second night of a back-to-back.
This effort was an example of both mental and physical toughness.
“We had a bunch of guys out and just played the way that you should play,” said Stevens, “and that’s to a standard.”
Now a standard has been set for each of these important role players as the rest of the season unfolds.
Pritchard wasn’t even expected to be on this list heading into the season, but now he might be at the top of it. The rookie point guard is proving to be a critical weapon for the Celtics amid Kemba Walker’s absence.
Walker, Marcus Smart and Jeff Teague all missed Monday’s game, leaving the C’s shorthanded at point guard. Stevens elected to start Tremont Waters instead of Pritchard and that move proved to be a great decision.
Pritchard remained in a rhythm while coming off the bench. He made eight of his 13 shots and ran the offense with pace and poise. He looked like anything but a rookie while playing for the second time in as many days and against a team that took Boston to seven games in the Playoffs just a few short months ago.
“Tonight, against a really good team with really good guards, a really good defense, he was able to find a really good rhythm and play well,” said Stevens.
Grant Williams, meanwhile, said simply of Pritchard, “He’s a vet.”
Williams himself looked like a vet while delivering his best game of the season. He had struggled during his first six appearances of the season and didn’t play Sunday in Detroit or during the first quarter Monday. When his name was called during the second quarter, however, he stepped in and delivered with six points, four rebounds, a blocked shot and a steal while playing the entire period.
Williams took ownership Monday night of his early-season struggle and outlined the reason for his success during this game.
“Sometimes I get in my own head and focusing too much on the role that I’m in, and that’s something that coming into this year I told myself I wasn’t gonna do,” he explained. “And tonight was just a pair of that, just being able to play freely.”
The other Williams – Timelord Williams – is playing free as well. Monday was just the latest example of his emergence as an interior force.
Williams became the first Celtic since Wayne Embry in 1967 to grab at least 15 rebounds during less than 20 minutes of action. That number set a new career high, all while he shot 4-for-5 from the field, continued to disrupt defensively, and provided high-level energy at both ends.
Grant Williams described Rob Williams after the game as “a monster” and “an uber-athletic beast.” Timelord is now living up to those monikers on a nightly basis.
Last but not least, let’s not forget about Ojeleye. He’s known for his physique, but that will change quickly if he continues to play the way he did Monday night.
Ojeleye was excellent off the bench while notching season-bests of 12 points and eight boards. He continued to stroke it from downtown, where he’s now shooting a team-best 44.4 percent (minimum 13 attempts).
He has worked, and worked, and worked to become the player he is today. He’s now a knock-down shooter who’s gaining more and more trust from his coach.
“Semi’s very reliable, and I thought he did a good job again tonight,” commented Stevens, who has always loved reliable players. “Two straight really big performances in a row for him.”
And one promising performance for Ojeleye and his fellow reserves as a whole.
It’s true that superstars like Tatum and Brown are the players who lead teams, but they don’t make up the whole team.
Boston’s long-term goals hinge on the impact of the “others” on the roster. They need ritchard, the Williamses and Ojeleye to deliver the goods like they did Monday night if they’re going to reach their ultimate goal.