Ailing Celtics center Robert Williams erases Warriors’ chances in Game 3

BOSTON- Celtics center Robert Williams briefly revealed what he wanted to avoid admitting: he is taking a “risk”.

Williams returned after knee surgery in late March. Even after When he returned from Boston’s first-round win over the Nets, he missed five playoff games. The Celtics have known for weeks that his problems would not be resolved this season. Each game is an exercise in body preparation and pain management.

But the scarier thought Williams refuses to discuss: Playing through this injury could hamper the rest of his career.

Nevertheless, Boston is in the NBA finals. When it comes to his health, isn’t it for moments like this?

Williams acknowledges pain: “It was tough.” But…

“It’s definitely worth it,” Williams said.

Certainly on a night like tonight.

In the Celtics’ Game 3 win on Wednesday, Williams led Boston with four blocks, three steals and seven defensive rebounds — Sterling numbers that only begin to show how much he handicapped the Warriors. He was a game-high +21 despite only playing 26 minutes.

The Celtics defensive standings with:

  • Williams a: 100.0
  • Williams out: 113.0

That’s particularly impressive given that Williams played more than two-thirds of his minutes on the floor with Golden State star Stephen Curry. (Boston’s defensive rating with Williams and Curry: 84.8.)

“He can kind of come out of nowhere,” said Curry, who had two passes stolen* and a shot blocked by Williams.

*Williams’ third steal also came on a Curry pass, but that was after the ball bounced off Draymond Green’s legs. Though Williams showed reach by picking up the loose ball, it wasn’t actually Williams who was forcing his will on Curry.

Curry brought up the block. He passed Grant Williams, but his floater was rejected by Robert Williams:

“I thought I had daylight to take a shot,” Curry said, “and you underestimate how athletic he was and how much he could disrupt that shot.

“You have to be aware of where he is because that’s what he’s doing for her at this end of the floor.”

The Warriors offer an especially tough challenge for a tied Williams with their movement and shooting. At one point, Williams said Celtics coach Ime Udoka snapped at him with “get up” — how to get higher on the ground to defend a shooter.

“I told him, ‘I thought I was awake!'” Williams said.

As a rookie head coach, Udoka has impressed with his ability to hold his players accountable. He also previously trained for years with the Spurs, who famously seeded Tim Duncan for the 2000 playoffs rather than pushing him through a knee injury. So Udoka is familiar with such difficult decisions.

Udoka has an idea of ​​how he wants to proceed and the confidence to implement it. His tenets include: he’d rather stick with his top players – including Williams Limited – and change the schema than change his line-up.

“This is the future core group,” Udoka said. “And having the confidence to be able to figure it out with him is going to be a big thing going forward.”

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown deserve the most attention as Boston’s centerpieces. The Celtics’ longest-serving player, Marcus Smart, has also made himself popular.

But Williams – who has the security of a four-year, $48-54million contract extension signed last summer – has emerged as a central figure. After showing immaturity early in his career, the fourth-year player has become a reliable “game-changer” (Al Horford’s word for Williams).

Williams is arguably Boston’s best defenseman. And this is a team with the Defensive Player of the Year and no weak links in the starting XI. At 6ft 9 and a wingspan of 7ft 6, Williams swarms all over the court, obliterating opponents’ opportunities.

At least if it’s healthy enough.

Williams said having two days off between Games 2 and 3 helped. There is only one day off between games 3 and 4.

“It usually hurts more the day after the game,” Williams said. “Obviously the adrenaline is dropping.”

Wednesday was an adrenaline rush. In front of a roaring home crowd on the main stage, Williams encouraged his team to victory.

Another test comes on Thursday. Then with Game 4 Friday. Then again the day after and the day after and…

But whatever it means for his future, as much as it hurts at the moment, Williams is eager to push for the ultimate adrenaline rush – celebrating a championship.

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