It would be easy to forget that Grant Williams is on the Celtics. He didn’t play Saturday night against the Lakers. He played sparingly against the Sixers and only garbage minutes in a blowout of the Cavaliers.
But then, he starts four games in a row. He pops up to close out a game in Chicago after not playing in any of the first three quarters. And last night in San Francisco, Williams logs a healthy twenty-seven minutes in a tight win against the Warriors.
“I thought he did a lot of good things for us today,” Brad Stevens said.
Williams was perfect from the floor, hitting all four of his shots including three from behind the arc (4-of-6 from the line). All good things and more importantly, he provided a versatility on defense against a Warriors team--despite missing Klay Thompson and James Wiseman--that still likes to move the ball and beat you by involving all their players.
The Celtics again started their two-big lineup with Daniel Theis and Tristan Thompson, but it was Williams (and Theis) that would finish the game entering at the 3:56 mark of the third and not leaving the floor in the fourth.
Stevens noted in his post-game presser that Williams was particularly good in his pick-and-roll defense against Steph Curry. The incomparable Curry still found a way to cook, dropping 38 points on just 21 shots in 38 minutes, but Williams called out coverages from the baseline and helped off the weak side to keep Curry’s teammates from eating, too.
With Marcus Smart out for the next few weeks with a strained calf, Williams has taken it upon himself to step in as the occasional middle linebacker of the defense. “My job more so was to communicate what was coming and help guys to understand that there’s a priority on the court and make sure to get there and cover each other and have each other’s backs,” Williams said after outdueling Draymond Green who many have compared Grant to.
Just ask Kemba Walker who hosted Williams in the early part of COVID quarantine before the NBA restarted in Orlando. “He’s really smart. He pays attention to detail. He’s constantly yelling out whatever the other team is doing. He’s just a very talkative guy out there and we need that. We need somebody to anchor us back there. He does a great job of doing that,” Walker said.
It’s been an up-and-down sophomore year so far Williams. After earning valuable playoff minutes and performing in the bubble, Williams was considered a key component to entering the regular season. However, DNP’s and spotty minutes haven’t discouraged him.
“Grant played tremendous today. He played big. He rebounded. He hit some shots, deep shots. It’s tough to be in and out of the rotation, but we trust in him. He makes winning plays,” Jayson Tatum said.
For the board gaming enthusiast, his NBA career so far has looked more like Chutes & Ladders than the deliberately plodding game of Catan. “I just try and stay ready to contribute when I’m given the chance,” Williams said.