These are not the Jayson Tatum/Jaylen Brown Celtics of years past, where no lead was comfortable, and anybody on the court was liable to revert to an isolation heavy play-style. These Celtics are not afraid of anyone, but everyone left in the playoffs should probably be afraid of them.
Through his performance in what will likely be filed away as “the Grant Williams game,” Grant Williams’ relentless scoring served as the perfect symbol for the Celtics in this series and their season as a whole
Milwaukee’s game plan was to leave Williams wide open from beyond the arc, and from the first play of the game, he showed the Bucks that was a mistake. The Bucks underestimated Williams’ shooting ability, much in the same way the league underestimated the Celtics throughout this season. Milwaukee continued to leave him wide open time and time again and never adjusted, and they ended up heading home for the offseason
Grant Williams’ Game 7 heroics serves as the perfect symbol for these Boston Celtics
However, there were some moments when it seemed like maybe coach Ime Udoka should bench Williams, or at least tell him to look for different shots. Following his first made three on the game’s first possession, he missed three and was briefly benched before making another.
But he just kept shooting. You have a moral obligation to keep shooting if a team continually gives you good looks from beyond the arc and you’re at least a half-decent shooter. And keep shooting he did. Williams attempted 22 shots in the game, 18 from beyond the arc.
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Williams didn’t take their slight of leaving him wide open personally. He exploited it and rode that miscalculation so far that he led the team in scoring. It’s the same thing the Celtics have done all year. The crappy team they were at the beginning of the year was seen as the team they’d be all year, the same way the Bucks wrote off Williams as a shooter based on his rough stretch midway through the series.
When the energy shifted and the Celtics went on their run, teams still counted them out. The turnaround was seen as merely just a hot streak. Nobody recalibrated their game plan with Boston, believing they’d be the team to prove the Celtics as the frauds they thought they were. When Grant Williams went off, the Bucks didn’t change their defensive game plan either.
When the Bucks finally came around and realized Williams was a threat, it was too late for them. And when the league finally realized the Celtics were a threat, it was too late for them too.
These past few years of Boston Celtics basketball have been filled with moments that fans will probably want to forget. You can take your pick between the Gordon Hayward injury in 2018, Kyrie Irving’s “if you’ll have me back…” speech, two years of Kemba Walker purgatory, and many other moments.
It’s the kind of embarrassing life experience that you hope nobody ever brings up but are prepared to shoo away or deny if anyone ever does. If someone were to ever ask about Irving’s performance against the Bucks in the second round of the 2019 playoffs, I’m prepared to tell them that I was out of the country for a long stretch with no access to anything NBA-related and therefore cannot comment on whether or not he completely gave up well before the series was over.
But this year’s playoffs, and last night’s victory against the Milwaukee Bucks especially, will not be something that Boston Celtics fans will soon forget. No matter what happens against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals or the rest of this year’s playoffs, we’ll always have the Grant Williams game.