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The Celtics need to follow Grant Williams’ lead

In a series where intensity has been a problem, it’s time for Boston to heed Williams’ call.

2023 NBA Playoffs - Boston Celtics v Miami Heat Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

Last postseason, Grant Williams was a regular face in the Boston Celtics rotation and even won them Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

This postseason, he’s picked up five DNPs and has only cracked the 20-minute mark five times in 17 total games. It’s a complete 180 that’s proving to have been the wrong decision.

With their season on the line, Williams stepped into a large role in Boston’s Game 4 contest against the Miami Heat. He logged a playoff-high 29:13, which ranked fourth on the team in minutes on Tuesday night.

A postseason of uncertainty hasn’t stopped Williams from stepping up when the moment called for it.

“For me, it’s just a matter of maintaining perspective,” Williams said. “You never know what your role may be one night, so you just got to make sure that you’re prepared for whatever that is, for your teammates.”

In Game 4, Williams was crucial to Boston’s success, pouring in 14 points and nailing four triples. He also added six boards, two assists, a steal, and a block on Jimmy Butler to his totals.

Williams’ three-point shooting helped the Celtics break Miami’s troublesome zone defense and opened the floor for Jayson Tatum to work, as the Celtics superstar had his best game of the series. And on the defensive end, his hard-nosed style paid off.

“Grant just played solid,” said Joe Mazzulla. “Made open shots, did a great job screening vs. the switch, and just executed the gameplan defensively.”

The fourth-year forward has been more than a three-point shot-maker and defensive presence for the Celtics, though. He’s been their only consistent source of energy.

“You need a guy like Grant on your team to win, and he helps us win games,” said Marcus Smart. “And when he’s playing like that, and he’s focused like that, we’re going to be alright.”

In Game 2, Williams went at Butler in the fourth quarter. Butler proceeded to relentlessly attack Williams, but the Celtics forward didn’t back down. Miami went on a massive run to win the game, and Williams took a large chunk of the blame.

But in reality, Williams’ intensity displayed how the Celtics should have been acting the entire series. Instead of backing up their teammate, Boston wilted, and Williams single-handedly outscored the rest of his team in the final eight minutes of the contest.

Game 4 saw Williams bring the same fire. He didn’t get into a screaming match with Butler, but his constant hustle was evident. Williams even got some get-back on Butler, blocking one of his signature turnaround mid-range shots in the fourth quarter.

But the block wasn’t as important as Boston’s defensive mindset.

“Just making sure that we keep that same intensity,” said Williams. “The block I had was just one play over the course of 100 possessions that are in a game. And, for us, it’s just about making sure that defensively — that mindset — that’s going to win us the game.”

The Celtics’ intensity has faded in and out this series. Game 3 was the low point, but their effort levels in Games 1 and 2 left much to be desired, too.

Williams has been the team’s constant source of hustle and ferocity, yet he was dragged through the mud for it in Game 2.

At this point, Butler is one of the best playoff performers of all time, and he finds that success by playing with a never-ending source of vehemence, and his squad follows suit.

If Boston has any hope of making history, they need to match that energy. And with how the series has gone thus far, the best way to do that is to match Williams’ fire.

“This team by playing harder than you and knocking down those threes in open opportunities,” said Williams. “So, we just have to maintain our pressure. Maintain that perspective. Understanding that, no matter what’s going on, just make that extra effort.”

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