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Grant Williams provides Boston Celtics new element as team continues to dominate

Vincent Frank

A former first-round pick of the Boston Celtics, power forward Grant Williams has been nothing more than an average player throughout his three NBA seasons.

The former Tennessee star averaged 4.0 points on under 17 minutes of action in his first two seasons with the Celtics. Williams, 23, did improve this past regular season by averaging 7.8 points and 3.6 rebounds on 41% shooting from three-point range.

Even then, his unassuming ways have led to questions about Williams’ future in Boston. Apparently, Williams took these questions seriously, because, he’s now playing a vital role as the Celtics look to win their first NBA title since all the way back in 2007-08.

That was taken to a whole new level during Boston’s comeback Game 2 home win over the Brooklyn Nets in their first-round NBA Playoff series Wednesday evening.

With Boston’s stars struggling early, Grant Williams kept the team afloat with three three-pointers within a one minute span. His aggressiveness coming off the bench was pretty darn obvious throughout the early going. If that weren’t enough, Williams also performed at a high level defensively. That included a block on Kyrie Irving to end the first quarter.

  • Grant Williams stats (Game 2): 17 points, six rebounds, 4-of-4 shooting, 3-of-3 three-point, plus-nine

Down by 17 points in this game, Boston came out on top by the score of 114-107 to take a commanding 2-0 series lead heading into Game 3 in Brooklyn on Saturday.

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Grant Williams as Boston Celtics X-factor

boston celtics grant williams
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

While Theis did score 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting as Boston’s Game 2 starting center, Williams provides a lot more on both ends of the court. That includes hitting from the perimeter on a consistent basis. It also includes plus-level defense for a Celtics team that’s the best in the NBA on that end of the court.

This particular Round 1 matchup against Brooklyn is interesting in that the Nets go with a traditional center a vast majority of the time. Ande Drummond and Nic Claxton combined to play 47 minutes in Game 2.

Typically, this would take someone like the 6-foot-6 Williams out of the game plan to an extent. That’s magnified by the presence of multi-time All-Star center Al Horford on the Celtics’ roster.

However, we’re not seeing that from first-year Celtics head coach Ime Udoka. In short, Williams played the four most of the time in Game 2. He also saw some action as a small-ball five.

Moving forward and assuming Brooklyn advances past Brooklyn, Williams will provide a mismatch against future opponents. These Celtics will take on either the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks or the Chicago Bulls in the conference semifinals.

Milwaukee just returned veteran center Brook Lopez from injury. He’s the team’s only traditional center with an actual ability to hit from the outside. As for Chicago, Nikola Vučević has expanded his game to the perimeter in recent seasons.

Why is this notable? If Boston goes small ball at times moving forward with Jayson Tatum at the three and Jaylen Brown at the two, it will cause some major mismatches. Neither Lopez nor Vučević can extend their defense to the perimeter. That would then likely require a four going up against Williams defensively.

Having scored seven points on 3-of-7 shooting in 21 minutes in Game 1, the onus is now on Grant Williams to prove that he can be consistent moving forward. That was an issue down the stretch with the forward scoring five points or less in four of his final nine regular-season games.

If Williams can show more consistency moving forward, it’s going to make the Celtics incredibly hard to beat in a best-of-seven series as the Eastern Conference Playoffs continue.

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