The Boston Celtics blew out the Washington Wizards on Sunday afternoon, 144-102. With the win and a Milwaukee Bucks loss, the C’s moved up to second in the Eastern Conference. They are also just one win away from a 50-win regular season.
Boston’s red-hot three-point shooting was highlighted by a flurry of bench guys - Derrick White, Payton Pritchard, and Grant Williams. The trio combined to score 47 points against Washington.
For Williams, the performance marked the first time he shot above 33 percent from deep in a game since March 20 against the Denver Nuggets. After the game, Williams was asked about what it was like to break out of his slump, and he said that it’s all about having the right mentality.
“You gotta keep shooting,” Williams urged. “One of those things where, as a shooter, it’s my first time really going through it as much as I have this year. Just a matter of keep being confident. Letting those things fly... And then, just playing the game the right way. You know, you can’t force it.”
Williams finished the game with 16 points, shooting 4-of-5 from behind the three-point line. He hadn’t made four threes in a game since doing it twice in a row on March 15 and 16. Despite that, this was his fourth game with at least 12 points in the Celtics’ last eight outings.
Head coach Ime Udoka was asked about what the team did to help Williams break out of his slump, but according to him, it was just making the right adjustments.
“Teams are defending them differently at the three-point line,” Udoka pointed out. “They’re clearly running him off, where he wasn’t getting looks for a while. Anytime you shoot above 40’s, you start to get that reputation. So the thing with him, the simplification was mainly make the right play, whether it’s a pass or drive. Don’t try to do too much, but catch and shoot when you can or make a play.”
Williams agreed, noting his progression when asked about the quote from Udoka. He said that he’s noticed the change and plans on continuing to grow in tandem with it.
“I feel like I went through it all this season,” Williams said. “You started off, guys were daring you to shoot. Not even halfway through, guys were like getting there, closing out. Then after that, they’re like, ‘alright get him off the line’… So for me, it’s just making the right decision, continuing to grow, and that’s one of the biggest things for me this season.”
Though it’s a slight difference, he’s averaging fewer wide-open threes since the All-Star break (2.1) than he was beforehand (2.4). The point is, as Williams said, teams have started to chase him off the line a bit more.
In turn, Williams was asked about how he’s felt about having to put the ball on the floor and make plays. But despite being primarily a spot-up shooter on the C’s, Williams said that he’s more than comfortable making plays for others.
“I feel like that’s what I used to do,” said Williams. “Something that’s more natural. Because, collegiately and everything else, you know you’re the one that everyone’s attention is on. So for me, the playmaking aspect of it is a little bit easier. But I feel like the scoring aspect of it, I’ve gotten better with as the year’s gone on, whether it’s just finishing at the rim. There’s definitely been kind of ups and downs.”
While Williams’ assist numbers are down since the All-Star break (0.7) in comparison to prior (1.1), he’s averaging 1.5 more passes per game. And even more impressively, despite averaging fewer threes made, Williams is scoring 9.2 points per game since the All-Star break, which is up from the 7.9 he was averaging prior.
He’s been able to adapt to the defensive adjustments being made against him, and although seeing him break out of his slump was reassuring, he’s proven that he can be more than just a shooter for the Celtics.
Williams and the C’s take on the Chicago Bulls in their next game on Wednesday. Tip-off is set for 8:00 p.m. and the game can be streamed on NBC Sports Boston.