Grant Williams should see regular minutes during this Celtics playoff run.
Not just every once in a while. Not just against certain teams. Not just when other players are in foul trouble. Every single night, in every single situation. He doesn’t need to play 30-plus minutes, but he does need to play at least 15 to 20.
As he showed again Wednesday in Boston’s dominant 121-87, Game 2 victory over the 76ers, Williams has a knack for contributing to something good and turning it into something great.
Williams scored 12 points on four 3-pointers, added four assists and four rebounds and finished plus-22 in 29 efficient minutes. He took smart shots, didn’t hesitate to make the extra pass and helped set the tone defensively whenever he saw Joel Embiid in front of him.
“At his best, he just brings a level of physicality and poise to our team,” Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla said.
Love this from Mazzulla. Watch him wave to send Grant Williams strong side corner (Danny Green cut).— Steph Noh (@StephNoh) May 4, 2023
It's not a super common cut, catches Sixers off guard. Wide open 3. pic.twitter.com/Y7eSndJgCg
Mazzulla also noted that the Celtics need Williams to shoot the ball at a high clip and not pass up open looks. He was aggressive, but not overly aggressive, in Game 2.
Four of Williams’ eight shots came from the corner and four from the wing-extended. Mazzulla is all about spacing, and Williams spaces the floor at a very high level. When Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Derrick White and Malcolm Brogdon beat their man off the dribble, Williams is often the beneficiary.
He has a simple shooting motion and doesn’t overthink it – upfake if a defender’s flying by; fire away if he’s open.
Three after three after three pic.twitter.com/PkV5bVmthD— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) May 4, 2023
On a night where Tatum didn’t have it, Williams and Co. were ready to step up.
“It’s what we’ve been saying all year long,” Brogdon said. “It’s our strength, our depth. Guys like me, Derrick, and Grant playing behind our two superstars.”
Williams shot nearly 40 percent from 3 in the regular season and is hitting a league-best 64 percent in the playoffs (9-of-14). There’s enough of a sample size to safely say that when he gets open looks, he’s often going to make them at a decently high clip.
Highest 3P% this postseason (minimum 12 attempts):— StatMuse (@statmuse) May 4, 2023
64.2 — Grant Williams
53.4 — Jaylen Brown pic.twitter.com/EfcA6sPwKj
It’s more than just his shooting, too. Little plays like this one go a long way, as the Sixers have to pick their poison.
If he had a layup, he would have taken it. As soon as he sees the double, he makes a quick, sound decision and finds White for 3. Williams simplifies the game and regularly makes the right read.
Derrick White making things happen— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) May 4, 2023
C's have their biggest lead of the night pic.twitter.com/lV2i3LmJMV
His defense was on point as well. Williams has the versatility to guard James Harden, Tobias Harris and Embiid. Not many guys in the league can say that. It’s not that he’s going to stop them every time. It’s that he’s capable of stopping them in key moments.
At one point during the broadcast, Reggie Miller mentioned that the 6-foot-3 or 6-foot-4 Williams was battling a 7-foot-plus Embiid. Maybe he was exaggerating to prove a point, but the 6-foot-6 Williams is a bit taller than Miller gave him credit for.
Having said that, he is giving up six or so inches to the league’s Most Valuable Player and holding his own. To be clear, Embiid is clearly not 100 percent, and it was a small sample size, but Williams did show he belongs. Embiid was clearly so terrified of him that he had to flop to have any shot (just kidding).
Williams also made hustle plays when the Celtics needed them and set his teammates up for success.
That's a Tommy point! pic.twitter.com/RayLLBJCb9— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) May 4, 2023
It’s pretty clear now that Williams has earned his spot in the rotation for this series. If he keeps playing like this, he should be a regular throughout the entire playoffs.
Maybe Mazzulla was just playing the long game – knowing sitting on the bench would irk him and having him save his best for when it matters most. Either way, Williams is making it awfully difficult to keep him off the court.
He’s someone Mazzulla should trust – fully, and without any apprehension whatsoever.