Rob Williams Leads Celtics Past Suns with Historic Triple-Double

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Robert Williams helped the Boston Celtics close out the 2021 calendar year on a high note Friday afternoon, logging a triple-double unlike any in NBA history while leading his squad to a blowout win over one of the top teams in the league.

The fourth-year center logged 10 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists, five blocks, and two steals while shooting 5-for-5 from the field, making him the first player ever to record a five-block triple-double without missing a shot. He also became the first Celtics player to log a five-block triple-double, period.

Williams’ well-rounded performance was key in guiding the Celtics to a 123-108 victory over a Phoenix Suns team that had entered the day tied with Golden State for the best record in the NBA (27-7).

Despite not even realizing that he had a triple-double until after he checked out of the game near the end of the fourth quarter, Williams was happy with the achievement. But more than anything, he was proud of the way his team responded after dropping three straight games, and also how they were able to maintain a large lead despite a couple of late pushes by the Suns.

"It was a great accomplishment,” Williams said of his triple-double after the game. “Thanks to my teammates, if they don't hit shots, I wouldn't have it. But overall, man, I feel like we played a good game. I'm happy about that. I feel like when you start hitting a little adversity, third quarter, early, fourth, we stayed together.”

Individually, Williams has been putting together some exceptional performances of late. Nine days ago, he nearly logged another triple-double against the Cleveland Cavaliers when he poured in a career-high 21 points to go along with 11 rebounds and seven assists.

“Rob is exceptional,” said Jaylen Brown, who tied Marcus Smart for the game-high in points with 24 and was on the scoring end on two of Williams’ assists. “He’s a really talented player. I think, at times, he puts a lot of pressure on himself, similar to me in a sense, but when he comes out and plays basketball, there's not a lot of people that can contain him on both ends. His effect on defense and offense tonight, everybody's seen it. We need him to be as consistent as possible and I tell him all the time, ‘Don't be afraid to be great.’

Ime Udoka has been pushing to get that greatness out of Williams on a more consistent basis. The first-year head coach admitted that prior to a few weeks ago, he had no idea how strong of a passer Williams was.

It’s an attribute that Udoka believes many teams overlook. Combining it with Williams’ inside scoring, rebounding, and shot-blocking abilities could help turn the young center into one of the most versatile players in the league.

“He’s more than people think he is,” said Udoka. “I talked to him about expanding his game, with the role, the minutes, everything increasing. There’s a high, high ceiling for him for a lot of different reasons. We see a lot in him and that’s why we’re coaching him hard.

“I don’t look at it as calling him out - I told him the same thing about keeping himself in the game regarding the fouls where he left his feet and reaching in when we were short of bodies. He’s a guy who has been resilient at bouncing back and rising to the challenge. I love that about him.”

Williams, who happened to get to the postgame podium just as Udoka was finishing up, felt inspired by his coach’s praiseful comments.

“He believes in me a lot,” the 24-year-old said. “I’m thankful for the way he’s pushing me every day, trying to get that out of me I guess. But it’s just an honor to have him talking like that. Obviously, there’s more I have to achieve if my coach feels like that.”

Williams achieved plenty with his historic stat line Friday night, yet he’s only scratching at the surface of what he could offer as we flip the calendar to 2022.