Robert Williams: the miracle return that could elevate the Boston Celtics

Robert Williams
Boston Celtics' Robert Williams III blocks a shot by Atlanta Hawks' De'Andre Hunter during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022, in Boston. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

Miracles do happen and Robert Williams‘ recovery is a true example of that. Or, at least, a compelling cause to believe in divine intervention, as the sensational Boston Celtics center might be back on the court in record time, ready to assist his team in the postseason.

Williams is set to play for the Celtics in Game 3 of the first round of the Playoffs against the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday, April 23, less than a month after sustaining a torn meniscus against the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 27.

The news comes after Williams showed no setback in his recovery process following the surgery he underwent, which projected a rehabilitation time of four to six weeks.

If Robert Williams ultimately returns for Game 3, he will only play limited minutes. If his return goes well, however, the Celtics will most likely risk him for much longer in Game 4, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Robert Williams and his great contribution to the Celtics

When we talk about the Celtics of the 2021-2022 season, we must highlight their great defense and the performance of Robert Williams, the center who reinvented his game in the middle of the season and changed the lost direction of the Boston team.

Thanks to a tactical move by coach Ime Udoka prior to the January 15 game against the Chicago Bulls, Williams began to defend more under the rim and not away from it by defending other centers at pick-and-roll time. From that moment on, the Celtics became unstoppable with Williams being the nightmare of all the forwards in the circuit.

According to Statmuse, due to his domination, opponents shot 6.4 percent lower than they did when not defended by Williams in the days leading up to his injury: the highest negative differential for any defender who defended at least 500 shots on the season.

In fact, had he not been injured, Williams was the number one candidate to win Defensive Player of the Year over teammate Marcus Smart, who ended up taking the award. By mid-March, the 24-year-old was tied for first in the league with 2.2 blocks per game, was among the top 20 rebounders in the league, and Boston’s defensive rating was the best in the tournament at 105.6.

Robert Williams
Boston Celtics’ Robert Williams III blocks a shot by Atlanta Hawks’ De’Andre Hunter during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022, in Boston. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

And although the team did not slow down after Robert Williams’ injury, his teammates had to put on more physical effort to try to overcome the constant attacks of the opponents who no longer had the 203-centimeters-tall player in front of them. Al Horford and Daniel Theis are good players, but they don’t instill the same fear in opposing defenders as the 2018 first-round pick, who also allowed shooters like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to have more space on the offensive end by forcing opposing defenders to focus on the inside game instead of going to defend outside shooting.

Of course, Williams will likely not be back to 100 percent even though he is practicing with some physical contact. But if the Celtics have already managed to manhandle Kevin Durant (shooting for 31.7% from the field with 12 turnovers) and company in the series, winning the first two games of the series, Williams’ presence will represent another hurdle that the Nets will have to overcome to get to the opposing hoop.

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Written by Rocio Robles

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