As Aron Baynes dealt with a right hamstring strain, Robert Williams III got a chance to play.
The No. 27 overall pick in this summer’s draft made his Celtics debut on Monday night against the Orlando Magic, suiting up for the first time after watching the first three games in street clothes.
Though he only appeared for a brief, three-minute stretch late in the third quarter, entering the game with the Celtics trailing, 68-59, there were still a few things to take away from his first run.
Robert Williams with the defense. Kyrie Irving with the offense #Celtics pic.twitter.com/fP5KxTHk6r— Casey Baker (@CaseyBake16) October 23, 2018
His most notable sequence came when he met Nikola Vucevic in the high post with the shot clock winding down. Vucevic caught the ball around the elbow and dribbled hard right in an attempt to get to the rim. Williams stayed with him, cutting off his lane and forcing Vucevic into a tough floater that rimmed out. Kyrie Irving ended up getting a layup in transition as a result.
Williams also made a nice rotation in help defense when Marcus Smart was briefly beaten off the dribble by one of Orlando’s guards. Smart ultimately recovered, forcing a wild layup attempt that ricocheted off the side of the backboard, but Williams was right there in good position to help.
That said, it’s clear Williams needs to continue working on setting screens. It was an area of his game that was lacking during Summer League, and while it has been reported he’s improving, he set two lazy screens in one set, slipping too soon on one before setting a half-hearted pin down.
Regardless, it was good to see Williams make an impact out there, albeit in a very small sample.
“He looked fearless,” Al Horford said after the game.
Williams did look relatively comfortable and it seems like he’s picking up on some of the basic nuances of NBA defense, but it’s hard to draw any meaningful conclusions considering he didn’t record a single stat. Hopefully Williams gets a more extended run in his next opportunity.