Grant Williams raises his hand after canning a big 3-pointer against San Antonio

Grant Williams Urges Celtics To Develop Killer Instinct

The Boston Celtics showed some real grit Friday night by battling back from 24 points down to take a seven-point lead late in the fourth quarter in San Antonio. They did not, however, show the presence of a killer instinct.

San Antonio scored the final 15 points of the night to capture a 96-88 victory that left the Celtics both encouraged and frustrated.

On one hand, Boston knows it has the talent to knock opponents out, as it did during that 31-point turnaround that led to its late lead.

On the other hand, the Celtics just haven’t landed enough of those punches this season to be the dominant killers they know they can be.

As Grant Williams put it, “We’re a great counter-punch team, but imagine if we woulda knocked somebody out in the first round and then continue to knock them out if they keep getting up.”

That’s a dream scenario for these Celtics, as compared to the rollercoaster they’ve experienced thus far.

Boston has won seven games by 10 or more points this season. That’s the good.

But it has also lost by double-digits four times, and fallen behind by as many as 15 points during five of its 10 losses, including two deficits that reached 29 or more points. Additionally, it has suffered two losses after leading by at least 15 points. That’s the bad.

Those uneven results, highlighted by Friday’s fresh wound, led Williams to relay his consistent message about killer instincts Friday night.

“I think the biggest thing is just understanding what it takes to win every single night,” he said. “That intensity, that passion, that effort that you have to come in every night, and every team – you’ve got to put your foot on their throats.”

Williams added to that comment moments later by saying, “We have to hold each other to that standard, that highest accountability standard where each one of us, when you see a person that may not be locked in that night or may not be playing with that intensity, you call them out on it. And that’s the next step, is understanding that nothing on the court is personal.”

It has not appeared from the outside that teammates have taken any such messages personal. It has, however, been clear that the Celtics have very rarely displayed the ability to take it to an opponent and knock them out. Williams mentioned a few teams that have specialized in sucking the life out of opponents out in recent history.

“You look at teams like the Bucks, you look at teams like the Warriors of the past, you look at teams like the Spurs of the past,” he said. “Like, when they played, you knew that – especially on their home court – you weren’t getting a win, and then on the road games you would have to fight for that.”

And rarely would the opponent win that fight.

That’s exactly the type of killer instinct Boston is striving to employ and showcase as it moves forward this season. Its next opportunity to do so arrives Sunday night in Toronto.

To the Celtics’ credit, they truly believe that they can and will learn how to take it to their opponents. As Jayson Tatum said after Friday’s defeat, “We’re gonna figure it out. I’m certain of it.”

That’s the type of confidence a team wants to hear from its best player. Now it’s up to Tatum, Williams and the rest of the Celtics to change the narrative surrounding their play.

There’s no questioning whether or not they have grit. There’s no questioning whether or not they have high-end talent and ability.

There is a question surrounding their killer instinct. As Williams suggested Friday night, now would be the perfect time to develop that instinct and answer that question in a resounding way.

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