It’s been an up-and-down postseason for Celtics center Robert Williams, who has done his best to stay competitive despite dealing with multiple knee injuries. As the playoffs have gone on, the workload has visibly taken its toll on his ability to move around the floor. However, in Game 3 of the NBA Finals – the Celtics’ 21st playoff game this year – Williams managed to look like his usual self and deliver a major boost as the team took a 2-1 lead in the series. In 26 minutes he recorded eight points on 4-of-5 shooting with 10 rebounds, four blocks, and three steals while finishing with a team-high plus-21 rating.
“It was huge,” head coach Ime Udoka said of Williams’ performance after the game. “Not only the shots that he did block – I think he got four tonight – but the ones he altered and his presence down there of course deters guys from driving. He was a big part of what we did. Staying big tonight, getting those 15 offensive rebounds and 22 second-chance points. So those were much needed. We want to try to impose our will and size in this series. It’s going to be a back-and-forth battle as far as that, but when we get nights like this from him and Al, obviously it pays dividends for us.”
In large part thanks to Williams, the Celtics scored 52 of their 116 points in the paint in this game. At the same time, they limited Golden State to just 26 points in the paint on 13-of-24 shooting in the painted area.
Williams noted after the game that he changed his daily routine prior to Game 3, which he believes helped his movement on the floor. “We did some different things today, got on the bike a little bit earlier before the game. I benefited from it,” he explained. “In warmups I felt a little more loose, so it was good.”
“It’s for sure a change in my routine,” he continued. “A lot more stretching, a lot more stim, a lot more icing. Like I said, really just trying stuff every day.”
“I think it’s a matter of playing through pain,” he added. “Obviously, not getting the time off that I need for this injury. But yeah, just a matter of playing through pain. We’ll focus on that after the season.”
Managing this injury has been a game-to-game issue for both Williams and the team, and he’s been a game-time decision for most of the postseason. “At this point of the season it is what it is. We talked about it,” Ime Udoka said. “But he doesn’t do a whole lot physically in between, so you don’t get a true sense until he really gets a good warmup. The day after it feels okay at times. The second day sometimes it’s more sore. So it comes and goes. That’s why we’re being deliberate about listing him and really checking him out in case he feels worse. The swelling has been good. Pain has been tolerable. It’s a legit day-to-day situation, and when he ramps up before the game, that’s when we know how he really feels.”
Things will get interesting for Williams over the next couple of days. Games 3 and 4 are the only two games this series with just a day off in between.
“Any time off helps me – obviously,” Williams said after Game 3. “Games 3 and 4, I don’t have that time. So throw some more stuff at it, see how it reacts.”