After a thrilling OT win on Saturday night against Los Angeles, the Boston Celtics searched for their second straight win on Wednesday night against the Brooklyn Nets. Marcus Smart was still out with an ankle sprain, but the Nets were far worse off, with superstar Kevin Durant recovering from an MCL sprain and Ben Simmons sitting with a sore back.
Boston didn’t pull any punches against their shorthanded rivals, and the Celtics jumped out to a scorching hot start in the first quarter by building a 46-16 lead. The team broke the franchise record for first quarter point differential, and were only five points away from tying the all-time record for scoring in a first quarter. That absurd start set the tone for the rest of the game, and the Boston Celtics cruised to a comfortable 139-96 win against Kyrie Irving and company.
“I feel like they’re hungry really,” said Robert Williams on Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. “They’re still pissed about last year.”
Boston’s superstar duo each shot a scalding 7-of-12 from three, and made it look effortless in the process. Brown and Tatum have now scored 25 points or more in 27 games so far this season, and set a new all-time record for the most by any duo before the All-Star break.
In their landslide win, Robert Williams made his return after missing Saturday night with an ankle sprain. Against the Nets, Williams had 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting, 9 rebounds, one block, and was a +22 in just over 19 minutes of floor time. His impact on both sides of the floor was dynamic, and his athleticism continues to look more improved with each game. Boston has been trying to implement Rob more into their offense, and Wednesday’s game was further proof that he’s getting incorporated slowly but surely before the playoffs. Williams’ teammates have been encouraging him to be more aggressive and assertive on offense as he’s worked his way back.
“You know, I think when you have a guy with such great instincts and such great athleticism and he’s so unselfish,” said Malcolm Brogdon of Williams’ ceiling. “I think he has a super high ceiling and Rob’s still young. I think he’s trying to get just 100% and I’m not sure he’s 100%. So, his ceiling is, I’m not sure what his ceiling ceiling will look like.”
It’s undeniable that Rob’s impact on the team is noticeable, and much like last season, he adds a whole different dimension to Boston’s schemes on both sides of the floor. But as he continues to get more comfortable and confident, Williams will have plenty of opportunity to expand and improve on offense besides putbacks and thunderous dunks, and to his credit, he’s aware of his potential, too.
“I feel like the ceiling for me is no ceiling,” said Robert Williams. ”You know what I’m saying? Especially with the teammates that I have. Through my injuries, they really helped me, just standing by me, stand on my side. And going back to the jump hooks or the little jump shots... They encouraged me to be who I am.”
Robert Williams’ defense is well-documented, but it feels like there’s a whole other layer to peel back when it comes to his offensive approach. He’s rarely ever asked for more possessions or been force-fed on the offensive end, but a lot of good things happen for Boston when Williams gets touches.
Boston’s defensive centerpiece is one of the best passing bigs in the league, and if he were to add a consistent midrange jumper, it could elevate his whole game as well as the Celtics. “I feel like we share the ball offensively a lot,” said Williams. “And like I said earlier, I need to just be able to get those little points, whether it’s a 15-foot jumper, you know, when we need it or whether it’s a jump hook or a put back. Those’ll help us.” With the physical tools that Williams possesses, his coaches and teammates have continued to egg him on, encouraging him every step of the way in his recovery.
“Yeah, you know, he’s incredibly talented,” said Brogdon on Williams. “We’re only seeing a piece of him right now. He’s working his way back in off injury, he’s still on minute restriction. There’s a lot of factors that are going into, you know, how he’s performing every night. He’s playing at a really high level, he’s playing really well right now, and he’s just gonna get more and more comfortable and become more and more of a centerpiece in our offense.”
The Celtics and Robert Williams will face another tough matchup with Deandre Ayton and the Phoenix Suns coming to town tonight, 7:30 pm EST tipoff.