Back in December 2019, Jaylen Brown revealed that the Boston Celtics were calling Grant Williams “Ben Simmons.” The rookie forward was struggling mightily from beyond the arc and had missed the first 25 three-point attempts of his career.
Fast forward two and a half years, and everything has changed. Williams ended the regular season as a 41.1% three-point shooter, solidified himself as a core member of Boston’s rotation, and in the words of Jayson Tatum, he “won us a playoff game.”
With their backs against the wall, the Celtics returned home for Game 7 at TD Garden, and despite both teams having multiple All-Stars on their rosters, it was Williams who shined the brightest. His 27 points set a new career-high, led the game in scoring, and helped the Celtics to a 109-81 win.
It wasn’t all roses and sunshine for the third-year forward, though. After nailing his first three of the game, Williams proceeded to miss three in a row. Despite this, the team continued to encourage him to shoot. Head coach Ime Udoka revealed after the game that he urged Williams to keep shooting in the face of his early-game struggles:
I told him ‘let him fly.’ They’re disrespecting you more tonight than earlier in the series. And that was a plan for him and other guys. Really shifting and making them try to beat us. You saw it on the first one that he made and then he missed a few and got a little hesitant. And I basically said, ‘shoot the ball like, what else can you do?’
Williams ended the contest with a career-high 18 three-point attempts, draining seven of them. The only other players to hit seven threes in a Game 7 are Stephen Curry and Marcus Morris Sr., and the only player to attempt more threes in a playoff game is Russell Westbrook (19). Williams holds the record for most attempts in a Game 7 though. The Celtics forward put up historical numbers in a game where they desperately needed him to.
In the process, Williams led the Celtics in shot attempts. When discussing Williams’ 18 three-pointers, Jayson Tatum couldn’t help but laugh. Although he admitted that the Celtics needed Williams’ production in Game 7, he also said that he told Williams not to get used to that usage rate:
He took more shots than anybody on the team. I think that’s a first. He took 18 threes. I told him, ‘don’t get used to that.’ But obviously tonight we needed it. He came up big, played amazing, had 27 points. And in the playoffs you need that. You need the guys coming off the bench to be a star in a row. And you know, Grant won us a playoff game tonight. A Game 7. I’m extremely happy for him.
Jaylen Brown was left with a similar sense of bewilderment. He was asked what his thought would have been before the game if someone were to have told him Williams would attempt 18 threes. All Brown could do was chuckle:
I would’ve called you a liar for sure. Hey man, that’s what they were giving us. It was almost like they were using that defender just to stop me and Jayson from getting to what we wanted. So we had to keep making the pass and he was wide open. And we trust all our guys. Grant is a good shooter. And he came through, man, he got them up. Call him ‘Grant Curry’ now.
As noted by Brown, the Milwaukee Bucks’ defense was completely willing to let Williams shoot the ball. Brook Lopez continuously sagged off Williams in favor of protecting the paint, as that’s what their defensive gameplan calls for over...
…and over again.
It was a true masterclass in confidence. No matter how many times he lost his rhythm or clanked a shot off the rim, Williams continued to shoot the shots Milwaukee gave him. That’s the message Udoka and the team sent him, and he was more than happy to listen.
During his post-game press conference, Williams said their confidence in him was hard to ignore. The third-year forward said he was more than willing to take advantage of his team’s unwavering confidence:
It’s tough to get in your own head when your entire team, like 15 people walk up to you and say, ‘let it fly, keep shooting.’ So, for me, it was just like, ‘alright, they’re encouraging it, might as well take advantage.’ So each one, as time went on, got more comfortable, kept shooting. And then, I guess Ime made a joke, I shot 18, and that’s probably the most threes I’ve shot in my life in a single game.
Williams was Boston’s best offensive player in an elimination game, doing his best Kelly Olynyk impression when it mattered most. (And what’s crazy is that Williams scored more points than Olynyk did in that legendary Game 7 against the Washington Wizards in 2017). After the game, Paul Pierce even made it known that the plan was simple: “Get the ball to Grant Williams.”
But as usual, Williams wasn’t just great on the offensive end. His defense was amazing as well. The young forward ran around the court at the speed of light, contesting every shot he was close to. (And even some that he wasn’t.)
Batman (yes, that’s his nickname now) has come a long way since his Simmons days. It’s a safe bet that the team won’t be making that comparison again anytime soon. Although, if the three-point success gets to his head, they might have to humble him a little.
In The Dark Knight, Commissioner Gordon said that Batman was “the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now.” It’s safe to say that Williams is the hero that Boston deserves, and he was most certainly the one they needed in Game 7.