Why Robert Williams III is so critical to the Boston Celtics success in the playoffs

In his first game back from injury, Robert Williams III calmed Boston Celtics fans by putting in a positive display in the C's six-game road trip's finale (Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images)
In his first game back from injury, Robert Williams III calmed Boston Celtics fans by putting in a positive display in the C's six-game road trip's finale (Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images) /

In his first game back from injury, Robert Williams III calmed Boston Celtics fans by having a net positive outing in the final game of Boston’s six-game road trip.

For the first time since March 3 in a stunning loss to the Nets, the former Texas A&M center Williams is back on the floor for the Boston Celtics. He played just 21 minutes in his return, but while he was on the floor, it was quite evident the entire team missed him. He adds that verticality and athleticism that this team just simply does not have no matter which depth piece Joe Mazzulla puts on the floor.

With Williams III on the floor, Boston has a net rating of 10.1 and a defensive rating of 106.8, the best of any current rotational player. He only shot the ball four times against Sacramento, but Williams III collected seven rebounds including two offensive rebounds to go along with one of the Celtics’ three blocks of the night.

Players tended to second guess their ability to get to the basket on Tuesday night. Williams III was not on the floor all that much, but the numbers for the home side was effected dramatically. For a team that is in the top-13 in points in the paint in the NBA currently, the Kings only collected 38 points in the painted area. That is tied for the fewest Boston has given up to any opponent since March 8 at home against the reeling Portland Trail Blazers.

The Timelord put so much pressure on the Kings defense Boston’s play on both ends of the floor took a step forward with his presence back on the floor.

Opponents have gotten to the rim far too easy throughout this road trip. Williams III returning completely changes how any team attacks Boston. His length is a game changer that acts as a factor of intimidation right before the player attempts to put a shot up. With him on the floor, opponents average a 44.3% field goal percentage, the lowest of any Celtics player that has participated in more than five minutes per game this season. On top of his defensive prowess, Williams III fills the hole to one of the most glaring issues that has caused Boston struggles down the stretch, rebounding.

With the Louisiana native on the floor, the Celtics collect an offensive rebound over 29 percent of the time. That is the highest rate of any player that has contributed in more than two games this campaign for Mazzulla’s squad. His keeps plays alive, and in his return, there were several instances in which demonstrated just that. On the defensive side of things, defensive rebounding has been one of the largest problems for Boston, especially in the clutch. Mazzulla needs to control the minutes of Williams III toward the end of the regular season.

Tracking Robert Williams III’s minutes in stretch run could be critical if a deep Boston Celtics postseason run will come to fruition

In a playoff game, the 25-year-old is going to be needed to prevent the opponent to accumulating more than one shot on a single trip down the floor. Home court advantage may be viewed as critical, especially with the noise that the TD Garden can create for postseason basketball, but Williams III’s health may be more important. The difference of him on the floor, and off of it is like night and day for Mazzulla’s men. His fragility has been nearly the only thing that has prevented him to becoming one of the league’s best. No matter who Mazzulla puts in as the second big without Williams III, it simply does not match the threat the former Texas A&M star adds when he steps between the white lines.

Jaylen Brown, and Jayson Tatum along with the Celtics’ guards tend to have easier looks at the basket given the lob threat that he creates just by being on the floor. His pick and roll is one of a kind. Even when the opposition may feel they have the lob covered, Williams III jumps out of the gym to slam the ball through the basket. Only Tatum and Derrick White have a higher plus/minus this season than Williams III. Boston even gets to the free throw line with No. 44 on the floor compared to any other player on the Cs roster.

29 games. That is the amount that one of the most vital pieces to this championship puzzle has played this season. In the 2021/22 regular season, Williams III played in 61 games. With just nine games remaining, Timelord is going to get nowhere near that total. His health is one of the biggest issues plaguing Boston to its 18th title. Keeping him off the floor as much as possible in the final few weeks will affect the Boston Celtics in a positive way in the long run. His 21 minutes on the floor at Golden 1 Center reminded everyone just how good this ball club is with all of its assets in the rotation together. Tatum and Brown may make the team tick and Marcus Smart may be the heart and soul of this team, but Williams III takes the play of everyone into a completely different stratosphere.