One Google search for “Boston Celtics” will see your screen flooded with images of Grant Williams and Jimmy Butler. Williams talked trash to the Miami Heat superstar, who proceeded to attack the Celtics forward every chance he got.
Things got heated, and Miami went on a massive run to end the game. Now, the narrative in the national media is centered around how Williams fueled Butler and the Heat.
And while Williams absolutely deserves some blame for the loss, he is not the reason the Celtics dropped Game 2. Not even close.
Should Williams have gotten in Butler’s face? Probably not. Of all the guys on the court who he could’ve gone at, Butler should have been pretty far down the list. But that’s who Williams is. He plays with a fire unlike many others, and in most cases, it gives Boston a massive boost.
What better way to get a team fired up than to go at the opponent’s best player? If anything, Williams’ actions should have gotten the Celtics amped up and ready to push forward. Instead, everyone around him wilted.
The incident between Williams and Butler occurred with under seven minutes to play. Williams nailed a three-point shot, talked smack, and Butler responded by giving him the work.
Including Williams’ three-pointer, the Celtics made just three field goals in the final eight minutes of the game. All of them were Williams.
Over the course of those last eight minutes, Butler scored eight points, and Williams scored seven. So, for as dominant as Butler may have looked going at Williams, the Celtics forward kept pace.
The rest of the team crumbled.
Jayson Tatum had a phenomenal Game 2, but in the fourth quarter, he only attempted three shots. The Heat did a great job of keeping him from getting shots up, and the rest of the team couldn’t make up for it.
Jaylen Brown put together one of his worst performances in recent memory. Forcing the issue repeatedly, Brown was content throwing up contested jumpers all night long rather than working for better looks.
Derrick White (+8) and Robert Williams (+7) were the second and third-best players on the court behind Tatum, and both only played 23 minutes, while Marcus Smart (-15) and Al Horford (-15) closed out the game in the fourth. Joe Mazzulla decided to roll with his regulars, which blew up in the Celtics’ face.
Miami’s zone defense absolutely broke the Celtics yet again. They found ways to dismantle it but refused to utilize them consistently, leading to an ugly, one-on-one offensive style for which this Boston team has unfortunately become known.
Butler has been the best player in these NBA Playoffs. He’s made a living ripping other teams’ hearts out. Williams may have been the match used to ignite the fire, but Butler was going to torch Boston and take matters into his own hands no matter what.
And other than his trash talk, Williams put together an amazing performance. He stifled Bam Adebayo in the post after the Celtics failed to do so in Game 1. He nailed a three when his number was called. He made all the hustle players Boston needed him to. He even took matters into his own hands, picking up a big bucket and a big assist in the last few minutes. But he talked trash to the wrong person.
Williams absolutely deserves a slice of the blame pie for getting Butler going. But his slice should be the smallest of the bunch.
The Celtics lost Game 2 because of their inability to show up on the offensive end. That’s on Brown, that’s on Smart, and that’s on Mazzulla.
But because it makes for the best story, Williams will catch all the heat.