Boston Celtics: Grant Williams a huge X-factor in postseason run

Apr 7, 2022; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) takes a shot against Boston Celtics forward Grant Williams (12) in the second quarter at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 7, 2022; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) takes a shot against Boston Celtics forward Grant Williams (12) in the second quarter at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /

The chase for championship banner 18 for the Boston Celtics ramps up Sunday afternoon against the Brooklyn Nets.

Two familiar foes, with the second-seed Celtics riding the trails of an outstanding last two months.  We know the players, we know the history between the teams, and all that remains is to settle things on the court.

The fortunes of the Celtics will rise and fall with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart, along with bench players rising to the occasion. So, too, will be the effectiveness of Al Horford and Daniel Theis in replacing — or close to replacing — the production of Robert Williams III.

It will be another Williams, however who could be a big x-factor in this first-round series.

Quietly effective for Boston Celtics

Part of that bench rotation — or even as a starter — Grant Williams has enjoyed his best season yet in the NBA. The third-year player improved in all areas and has been a solid asset all season. Looking at his stats in four games against Brooklyn in 2021-22 might be deceiving but Williams will be an x-factor in this series.

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Williams had minimal impact in the box score for the Celtics against the Nets this season. He totaled only 25 points on 10-26 shooting. Williams also had 11 rebounds and most numbers were below his season average.

This series, even with the possibility Robert Williams plays a part, takes on utmost importance for Boston’s big men. Grant Williams will be part of this equation alongside Horford and Theis.  Helping to keep Kyrie Irving from getting to the hoop and defending Kevin Durant in the mid-range will take a team-effort, but it’s patrolling the paint where Williams can help.

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So, too, will be his ability to knock down the three.

Williams finished in the top-20 in three-point percentage in the regular season, knocking down 41.1 percent of his attempts.

Finishing up his third year in the league, Williams had career-best averages in points (7.8), rebounds (3.6), field goal percentage (47.5), and the aforementioned three-point percentage. He played in 77 regular season games, and his game grew under the tutelage of Horford.

Three-point shooting did get a little cold for Williams down the stretch but over his last 11 games, he scored double figures four times. Williams had 20 points and 10 rebounds in a victory over Oklahoma City during the stretch.

Putting up a double-double every game against the Nets won’t be expected of Williams. Doing so would be extraordinary but if he can over-deliver on his regular season stats, the Celtics will be in prime position to build on the success they had against Brooklyn this season.

Boston Celtics vs Brooklyn Nets 2021-22

The Celtics took three of four against the Brooklyn Nets in the regular season. This, too, can be deceiving, as far as true barometers go.

Boston’s one loss came back in November. Long before the Celtics gelled into the team they are now. Both teams, aside from (most) of the star players and key reserves, look different than that November meeting.

There was no Robert Williams for that game, while the Nets played without Irving. It was a fairly easy 19-point victory for the Nets, with Patty Mills scoring 23 points (on seven made 3’s) and Durant scoring 21.

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Tatum struggled that game, scoring only 15 points on 4-16 shooting; one of the only games he struggled in against the Nets this season.

The next two meetings between the teams saw the Celtics outscore the Nets by a combined 58 points. Boston was basically at full strength for both those games. Irving and Durant were both out for the Nets and the losses were part of Brooklyn’s mid-season slide.

It was in the fourth meeting between the teams in which we might see the true predictor for the upcoming series. Both clubs had their go-to guys — aside from Ben Simmons — and the Celtics prevailed 126-120.

This was a dazzling 54-point game for Tatum, who averaged nearly 35 points in the three victories against the Nets.

Smart will also be an integral part of Boston’s chances at moving on. Not only will the Defensive Player of the Year candidate be busy on defense but Smart will need to replicate his numbers on offense.

Smart had some of his best games against the Nets this year. He averaged nearly 18 points per game against Brooklyn, with an average of 6.5 assists.

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Focus will be on the all-stars and much of the success or failure for the Celtics will be placed on their shoulders. It is a player like Grant Williams, however, that could help alleviate that pressure on players like Tatum, Smart, and Brown. Securing a loose ball here or a key blocked shot there can make all the difference, and Williams is the type of player to deliver on exactly that.