In Tuesday’s night huge bounce back win for the Celtics, Robert Williams stepped up in a big time role. After Daniel Theis was ruled out with a finger injury, an opening for some added frontcourt minutes became available for Williams, and he was able to do a little bit of everything.
Williams finished the game with 8 points, 8 rebounds (3 offensive), and 5 steals in 20 minutes of play, an impressive +12 in +/- rating. This is not the first occasion this season where he has looked much better than last year. He is understanding the flow of the NBA both on offense and defense. This IQ for the game had been missing, but paired with his raw abilities, he’s commanded more of an opportunity.
The one tough thing with Robert Williams has been his consistency. He shows great minutes at one point, and then does a complete 180 the next time on the floor. This season, however, he does not look out of sorts. On offense, he is doing a much better job attacking from the dunker’s position, getting to just show off his freak athletic ability.
That first clip illustrates the awareness The Timelord now plays with. He thrives on that low block position impacting a missed shot or collecting a great pass from Jayson Tatum for an easy layup. He saw the double that the Nuggets had been throwing at Tatum most of the game and rolled to the basket.
Williams’ best quality is showing off that athletic ability around the rim. Payton Pritchard does a fantastic job in transition, finding Williams rim running after Jokic helps out. This creates the monster slam to The Loblord (Thank Celtics Twitter for that one).
On defense, most would think that both Tristian Thompson and Rob Williams were rolled over tonight by Nikola Jokic. The Joker finished with a casual 43 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists. He just would not miss from anywhere. Williams made his life much tougher on many possessions. It was near impossible to completely stop him, but Rob was making plays to impact his shot more than Thompson. Williams was using his athleticism that gave Jokic a slightly harder time. There are times where Rob Williams looks lost on the defensive end, but this season he has had more stretches of good defending than in the past.
That being said, Williams tallied five steals as well in this game. He showed quick hands and some great instincts to cause turnovers. Multiple times he read the passing lane while also being able to drop back as Jokic rolled to the paint.
Here is a good example of one of those steals. The screen from Jokic was coming, so he did the right thing to cut off Jamal Murray. Then, as soon as he saw Jokic cutting to the basket, he pivoted and went for the steal, blocking the passing lane of Murray’s pass. The Nuggets do that play countless times between those two, but Williams was able to read this and breakaway for a steal and (almost) go for a transition basket.
With the decline of Thompson this season, it may be time for Brad Stevens to give Williams more playing time. Yes, there are still questionable times from him, but his step up in play should get him a more significant look moving forward. The Timelord brought the “positive vibes” to this one and excelled. The Celtics have a piece in Williams who is still a very raw talent, but if everything comes together, the sky is the limit for him.