Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
Over the first two games of the series, we have seen Brad Stevens put his faith in 22-year-old Rob Williams III. And it has paid off. Williams in his sparkplug backup role has proven that he can do more than just dunk. He has begun to get a feel for the rhythm of playoff basketball.
That’s an allowance that especially has to be made for the young Williams, who nevertheless has shown great growth since games started in the Orlando bubble. “There’s enough time in between games to work on things,” said Stevens. “I joked about our practice time yesterday, but he spent about 25 minutes after working on the things he needs to be ready for the day. Things will always present themselves – doesn’t mean you’re going to play a perfect game. I think he’s done a lot of good things since he’s been in the bubble.”
The Timelord has been able to up his game by positioning himself better on the defensive end, and knowing his role and executing on the offensive end. Not only that, but he has provided meaningful minutes when the Celtics have been down, especially in the first quarter of Game 2.
Robert Williams checked into Game 2 between the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors with 6:25 left in the first quarter and Boston down 15-9. Boston’s had already given up easy transition baskets without much effort to stop the ball, Daniel Theis had already lost Marc Gasol on the slowest backdoor cut of all time, and the defensive rotations weren’t exactly crisp. It’s impossible to quantify the butterfly effect in sports. Robert Williams may exist in multiple dimensions, but the rest of us do not. We only saw Williams come in with the Celtics down six and then start the second quarter tied after he hit all five of his shots.
Marcus Smart has deservingly received high praise due to his phenomenal performance in the fourth quarter, but Williams’ impact has certainly turned some heads. He provides a mismatch in the second unit that the Raptors have not seemed to have an answer for, and by scoring double figures in each of the first two games of this series, he is now viewed as a legitimate threat.
Having the uber-athletic Williams matched up with the slower-footed Gasol might be a big enough caution flag for Toronto head coach Nick Nurse to bypass making that change and look to make another adjustment elsewhere.
It is great to see a young player like Williams grow and play meaningful minutes in the playoffs. While there is still much to learn, Rob has taken a big step and has established himself as a legitimate rotational player for the Celtics in this series. I fully expect Brad to continue to utilize the Timelord, as the Celtics try to take a commanding 3-0 lead tonight.
On Page 2… The Celtics defense has been crucial
“I think they’re just up on us,” Lowry said. “They’re doing a good job of being up on the pick-and-rolls. I had a bunch of open looks but I just missed them. The shots are there, we’ve just got to make them. The Celtics are playing extremely well. We’ve just got to find a way to get ourselves going. No excuses, we just have to play better, honestly.”
The Celtics have done a great job of frustrating the Raptors this series, especially with their defense. They have held Toronto to under 100 points in back-to-back games, have the Raptors shooting less than 27% from 3 for the series, and are making plays when they matter most. Most importantly, they are getting under the skin of Nick Nurse’s best players. Siakam was held to 13 points on 5-16 shooting in Game 1. After pouring out 11 points in the first quarter of Game 2, the Celtics didn’t allow another point from VanVleet. It is this type of effort that Boston needs to continue if they want to continue to be effective against the defending champs and continue their surge towards Banner 18.