Fasten your seatbetls! The Boston Celtics head to the Eastern Conference Finals where they face the Miami Heat for a chance to contend for an NBA championship.
Let’s be fair, we experienced a slobber knocker between Boston and the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round of the playoffs, and the series could have gone either way. Still, the Celtics found a way to defeat the reigning champions in a seventh game for anything and everything thanks to a monster performance from third-year big man Grant Williams.
“Grant played great tonight. He fired more shots than anyone else on the team. I think it’s a first – I told him don’t get used to it. But obviously we needed him tonight; He played fantastic and had 27 points. You need that in the playoffs. You need guys who come off the bench and are stars in their roles.
You know, Grant won us a playoff game tonight. A game seven. I’m very happy for him,” Jayson Tatum said after Boston’s win in game seven, in which Williams made 18 three-point shot attempts.
Williams finished the contest with 27 points, six rebounds and two blocks while hitting 45.5% of his field goal attempts and 38.9% of his perimeter shots. When Tatum got into trouble early in the third quarter, Williams provided the extra hit the Celtics needed as they tried to keep Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks at bay.
Ever since taking on the role of Celtics head coach, Ime Udoka has stuck to his plan of finding the open man and getting the best shot available. While that caused some growing pains early in the season, the Celtics have evolved into a selfless basketball team on offense. Now they punish opponents for helping out shooters on the perimeter.
Hot and cold from the deep all season, Grant Williams was still one of the Celtics’ most reliable shooters and reaped the benefits of the Celtics’ drive-and-kick game in what was arguably the greatest game of his young career to date.
However, after missing several shots from deep early in the game, Williams was reluctant to kick the ball and began driving out of corners regularly, prompting Udoka to whisper some words of wisdom in the Tennessee product’s ear .
“I told him to let it fly. They disrespected you more tonight than they did earlier in the series. And that was the plan for him and other guys to really change and get them to try and beat us. And you saw it on the first one he did, then he missed a few and got a little hesitant.
I basically said, ‘Shoot the ball; what else can you do?’ Stop driving into a crowd, take the shot they give you and it broke Steph Curry’s record for tries in a seventh game. He said two Charlotte shooters – I’m sure he’ll be happy about that,” Udoka told reporters shortly after Boston’s seventh game win.
We’re just 12 months away from Williams struggling to crack the Celtics rotation and being dubbed a potential draft bust for Danny Ainge. However, after an offseason of stamina and shooting improvements, Williams quickly became a permanent member of the Celtics rotation. He’s arguably one of the better defenders in the NBA now.
Earlier in the season, Williams explained how he had extra weight last season to keep up with the league’s bigger players when asked to play middle position.
“In my rookie year I had to gain weight to play 5. Then I never lost that weight. Now I’ve lost 12-15 pounds. I still have to lose 8-10 to be able to play the 4 more. I want to be like a baby Al (Horford).” Williams told reporters at the Celtics media day on Sept. 27, 2021.
It appears that Williams’ off-season adjustments and changes to his training schedule are paying off, and it’s very likely that he will continue to be an influential member of the Conference Finals rotation and for several years to come.