Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics took off after the calendar turned to 2022, and now they find themselves with their best chance yet to make the NBA Finals, thanks in large part to the heroics of third-year forward Grant Williams.

Williams was one of many Celtics who appeared to turn a corner at some point in the second half of the 2021-22 regular season. His minutes, points, and rebounds per game all improved from pre-All-Star break to post, as did his defensive rating from 108 to 113. So, what went into that transformation?

The 23-year-old explained in a new interview with ESPN’s Malika Andrews that he zeroed in on honing his role as a tenacious defender who can be a dependable shooter when the time is right. He never needed to be more than that, and ironically, he ended up having the biggest game of his career in Game 7 against the Bucks.

Williams didn’t pinpoint a specific moment in the season when he turned it around. But it’s clear that head coach Ime Udoka got him to buy in to his role, and follow Jayson Tatum’s lead, and that buy-in was at the center of the team’s improvement.

“I told [Udoka], whatever he needs me to do, I’ll do, to help this team have success,” Williams said. “For me, I just wanted to be ready, engaged, because I knew it was going to be a big year for not only us as a team, but for this generational development that we’ve had with [Tatum and Jaylen Brown]. So, whatever they needed me to do, I was going to do.

“It was a matter of knocking down open shots, defending – that’s what [Udoka] told me to do – and that’s what I tried to do through the whole season and be consistent with that, because a lot of times in my rookie and sophomore years, I showed glimpses, but it wasn’t consistent. So now, it’s just a matter of maintaining that, not only through the regular season but through the playoffs and stepping up and taking advantage of that.”

Williams credited Tatum with maturing as a leader during the season, in addition to improving as a playmaker on the court. Tatum posted a career-best 4.4 assists per game, and Williams says it’s been key to his and the Celtics’ overall growth.

“He was known as a scorer, he was known as a player that was looking to get his own shot, but now it’s like he does it all,” Williams said. “He not only can get 36 or 40, 50 points, but also have 10 assists. It’s a credit to him, not only his development and his work, but he’s been a great leader out there, from keeping us not only head down and solid throughout the whole season, but leading us this postseason with his excellent play.”

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You could say Williams stepped up when his name was called in Game 7 against the Bucks. He drained seven three-pointers, tying Stephen Curry’s Game 7 record, and finished with 27 points, to go with six rebounds and two blocks, while often playing defense against the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo.

If Williams can deliver his Game 7 performance more consistently, the Celtics would have quite the clutch role player on their hands. His first chance to continue his hot streak comes in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat, which takes place Tuesday, with tipoff scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET. Expect him to play a lot of defense against dynamic Heat big man Bam Adebayo.

PHOTOS: Celtics take on Bucks in Game 7 of 2022 playoff series

Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. You can also email him at mdolloff@985thesportshub.com.


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NBA announces full schedule for Celtics-Heat Eastern Conference Finals

  • Check out the full schedule for the series below. All games will be carried live on 98.5 The Sports Hub, with pregame coverage starting 30 minutes before the scheduled tip-off.

    Game 1: Tuesday, May 17, 8:30 p.m. ET

    Jan 31, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) drives between Miami Heat guard Duncan Robinson (55) and guard Tyler Herro (14) during the second half at TD Garden. (Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

    Jan 31, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) drives between Miami Heat guard Duncan Robinson (55) and guard Tyler Herro (14) during the second half at TD Garden. (Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

  • Game 2: Thursday, May 19, 8:30 p.m. ET

    Nov 4, 2021; Miami, Florida, USA; Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) shoots over Miami Heat guard Kyle Lowry (7) during the first half at FTX Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 4, 2021; Miami, Florida, USA; Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) shoots over Miami Heat guard Kyle Lowry (7) during the first half at FTX Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

  • Game 3: Saturday, May 21, 8:30 p.m. ET

    Nov 4, 2021; Miami, Florida, USA; Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) drives the ball around Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) during the first half at FTX Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 4, 2021; Miami, Florida, USA; Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) drives the ball around Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) during the first half at FTX Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

  • Game 4: Monday, May 23, 8:30 p.m. ET

    LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 25: Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat drives the ball against Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics during the first quarter in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2020 NBA Playoffs at AdventHealth Arena at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on September 25, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

    LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA – SEPTEMBER 25: Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat drives the ball against Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics during the first quarter in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2020 NBA Playoffs at AdventHealth Arena at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on September 25, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

  • Game 5 (if necessary): Wednesday, May 25, 8:30 p.m. ET

    Jan 31, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Miami Heat forward Caleb Martin (16) shoots against Boston Celtics center Robert Williams III (44) during the second quarter at TD Garden. (Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

    Jan 31, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Miami Heat forward Caleb Martin (16) shoots against Boston Celtics center Robert Williams III (44) during the second quarter at TD Garden. (Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

  • Game 6 (if necessary): Friday, May 27, 8:30 p.m. ET

    Nov 4, 2021; Miami, Florida, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) shoots the ball against Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (13) during the first half at FTX Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 4, 2021; Miami, Florida, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) shoots the ball against Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (13) during the first half at FTX Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

  • Game 7 (if necessary): Sunday, May 29, 8:30 p.m. ET

    Nov 4, 2021; Miami, Florida, USA; Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) blocks the shot of Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) during the first half at FTX Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 4, 2021; Miami, Florida, USA; Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) blocks the shot of Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) during the first half at FTX Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

  • Full Schedule

    Oct 15, 2021; Miami, Florida, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) shoots the ball over Miami Heat guard Duncan Robinson (55) during the second half at FTX Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 15, 2021; Miami, Florida, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) shoots the ball over Miami Heat guard Duncan Robinson (55) during the second half at FTX Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

    Game 1: Tuesday, May 17 in Miami; 8 p.m. pregame/8:30 tip
    Game 2: Thursday, May 19 in Miami; 8 p.m. pregame/8:30 tip
    Game 3: Saturday, May 21 at TD Garden; 8 p.m. pregame/8:30 tip
    Game 4: Monday, May 23 at TD Garden; 8 p.m. pregame/8:30 tip
    Game 5 (if necessary): Wednesday, May 25 in Miami; 8 p.m. pregame/8:30 tip
    Game 6 (if necessary): Friday, May 27 at TD Garden; 8 p.m. pm pregame/8:30 tip
    Game 7 (if necessary): Sunday, May 29 in Miami; 8 p.m. pregame/8:30 tip

    Click here for the full on-air schedule at 98.5 The Sports Hub.

Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. You can also email him at mdolloff@985thesportshub.com.

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