Grant Williams Provides Lift for C's in Third Straight Game
The Boston Celtics have an unusual luxury in their starting lineup: when one Williams goes down, another Williams can step right up.
Such was the case Wednesday night when Robert Williams was ruled out of Boston’s matchup in Atlanta due to left knee tendinopathy, opening the door for Grant Williams. And Grant stepped on through with the best overall performance of his career.
G-Will was one of the few offensive bright spots for the Celtics in a 110-99 loss to the Hawks, as he tied his career-high in the scoring department with 18 points, set a new season-high in the rebounding department with six boards, and shot 6-for-12 from the field, 3-for-8 from 3-point range, and 3-for-3 from the free-throw line all during 30-plus minutes of turnover-free action.
The 6-foot-6 forward also rose to the occasion on the other end of the floor, playing a role in Boston’s switching defense to help limit Hawks star point guard Trae Young to a 4-of-12 shooting performance from the field, which included a 0-for-6 clip from 3-point range.
“You just try to come in and play with energy,” Williams said of stepping into the starting lineup. “Be a guy that not only competes at the highest level but doesn't mess up the groove. Some of the starters kind of have that relationship where you are able to fill in and try not to do too much but also give them more options. That's kind of how I view it: be a solid guy that they know is available and can do a little bit of what they need me to do.”
What they needed from Williams Wednesday night was to get the offense rolling. Atlanta focused most of its early defensive energy on slowing down Boston’s top two scorers of late: Dennis Schroder and Jayson Tatum.
As a result, Williams got plenty of opportunities to score and he put up 10 points during the first quarter alone.
“He can make shots, be solid defensively like he always is, whether it's on-ball or off-ball,” said head coach Ime Udoka. “But he was aggressive early. The crowd that Jayson and Dennis and those guys attract, he played off that.”
It marked the third straight game in which Williams displayed such aggressiveness. He filled in for an injured Al Horford Saturday night in Cleveland, putting up 11 points and corralling five rebounds. He then helped fill Rob Williams’ void in the second half of Monday night’s rematch against the Cavs, dropping another 11 points to go along with four boards.
“I'm just taking what was available,” Williams said of his recent play. “[My teammates] create great opportunities for me and those are the ones I have to execute on. That's really it. Just trying to do my job on that end, with spacing and knocking down open shots and being aggressive. Not being passive and stepping up into that role that the team kind of needs.”
The most notable example of Williams’ fighting spirit came near the end of the second quarter when he corralled an errant Al Horford pass on the baseline and turned it into a flashy, and-one layup. He displayed agile footwork, tip-toeing around the baseline to save the ball from going out of bounds, before spinning past Kevin Huerter and laying the ball in, despite taking an inadvertent shot to the face from Huerter in the process.
Best play of Grant's career pic.twitter.com/F0dAKGm7xI— Taylor Snow (@taylorcsnow) November 18, 2021
There was not an ounce of hesitancy from Williams on the play, nor was there any when he was taking and making his jump shots. And over the course of this three-game road trip (13.3 PPG, 58.3 FG%, 52.9 3P%, 100 FT%), he’s looked more like the Williams that we saw in the first six games of the season (9.8, PPG, 57.6 FG%, 50.0 3P%, 91.7 FT%) as opposed to the one we saw in the following six (1.7 PPG, 25.0 FG%, 8.3 3P%, 50.0 FT%).
“I think that's when I miss the most when I'm kind of hesitant and am like, maybe there's a better shot somewhere else,” said Williams, who finished second on the team in scoring Wednesday night behind Tatum (34 points). “That's the biggest thing, just trying to stay head down and continue to work but also let the work show for itself.”
The third-year forward let his work show for itself all throughout Boston’s three-game road trip, and especially in its final matchup in Atlanta when it needed one Williams to step up for the other.