Rob Williams Proves to Be Ultimate Warrior in C's Game 3 Win

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Rob Williams hasn’t felt like himself of late, as he’s dealt with nagging left knee soreness throughout most of Boston’s playoff run. But that didn’t stop him from being the most impactful defender on the court for Game 3 of the NBA Finals Wednesday night when he helped to anchor a 116-100 Celtics win over the Golden State Warriors at TD Garden.

Williams led the game in each of the three major defensive categories, corralling 10 rebounds, four blocks, and three steals. He also scored eight points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field and was a game-best plus-21 in his 26 minutes of action.

“Rob is really a game-changer,” frontcourt mate Al Horford said after Boston took a 2-1 series lead. “We're very fortunate to have a guy like that that impacts winning in the way that he does, because it's beyond the numbers with him. It's just all the things that he brings, being in the right places.”

Despite dealing with constant discomfort, Williams says that his rightful place is on the court. After dreaming of playing on this Finals stage for most of his life, it’s a sacrifice that he’s more than willing to make.

“I’m just trying to be accountable for my team,” said Williams, who missed games in each of the first three rounds because of his ailing left knee. “We’ve made it this far. I had a discussion with myself, by pushing through this. I'm happy with how it's going. We'll worry about the injury after the season, but for now, I'm still fighting.”

Williams has been fighting every day, going through hours of treatment to get his knee feeling decent enough to play on for each game, and he hasn’t missed a Finals game yet after missing at least one game in each of the first three rounds.

Marcus Smart, who is no stranger to playing through pain, has helped Williams with the mental side of getting through such a fight.

“I'm constantly talking to Rob, just for the simple fact I know what he's going through,” said Smart, who has dealt with a handful of injuries of his own during this playoff run. “He's hurting, and even though he's hurt, he still wants to get out and help his team. But at the same time, he's thinking about his career. Like I just told him, you know your body. You know what you can withstand and what you can't. But just know, we've got a chance to do something special. There's no guarantees that we'll be back here.”

Knowing that there are no guarantees of getting back to this stage makes Williams want to play as hard as he possibly can despite his physical discomfort. For him, that starts with creating discomfort for any Golden State player who is willing to attack the rim.

Williams was a terrifying presence around the basket in Game 3, contesting shots, blocking shots, and being physical.

“It was huge,” Celtics head coach Ime Udoka said of Williams’ impact. “Not only the shots that he did block -- I think he got four tonight -- but the ones he altered, and his presence down there of course deters guys from driving. He was a big part of what we did.”

Williams realizes that the road won’t get any easier for him, especially since he has only one day to rest between Games 3 and 4. But he will do everything in his power to get back out there Friday night and every other night that the Celtics need him, knowing that there is a championship banner on the line.

“Knowing what I'm playing for, taking the risk of playing and getting this far, I've obviously got more work to do,” Williams said. “But it's worth it, for sure.”