On Monday, it was announced that Boston Celtics center Robert Williams III experienced an injury late in Sunday’s 134-112 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves:
Boston Celtics center Robert Williams is feared to have suffered a meniscus tear in his left knee, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. It could lead to an indefinite absence, which would be a tough loss for the Celtics as Williams is shining as the starting center this season.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) March 28, 2022
“Shining” is the perfect way to describe Williams’ 2021-22 performance.
The Celtics center may not play another game this season, and it will not help the Celtics’ chances at a title.
Boston is chasing its first championship since 2008, and Boston has had a lot of unlucky injuries the last six years:
This is the 6th time in 6 years the Boston Celtics lose a key piece of their team right before or during the playoffs.
2017: Isaiah Thomas
2018: Kyrie Irving
2019: Marcus Smart
2020: Gordon Hayward
2021: Jaylen Brown
2022: Rob Williams
— GRD 🍀 Go Celtics Or GFYS (@CelticsGRD) March 28, 2022
Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Al Horford, and Williams were going to continue to be a dominating starting lineup.
Smart, the starting point guard for the Celtics — a phrase many would have laughed at one year ago — is the defensive leader for Boston and has been for a long time.
The rise of Williams has been huge for the Celtics, and it has helped Smart command a better defense.
With Williams making players think twice about driving to the hoop, Smart, Tatum, Brown, and others have been able to keep teams from scoring from the perimeter.
They have been stifling offenses and torching defenses, with the bench unit playing well, too.
Boston was performing so well that it did not play in many close games.
However, when the team did, it did not perform well:
And after another close one gets away….the 2021-22 Celtics drop to…
4-15 in games decided by 5 or fewer
43-14 in games decided by 6 or more https://t.co/KmMz08wUG0
— Sean Grande (@SeanGrandePBP) March 29, 2022
This statistic does not bode well for a Celtics team that is sure in need of a pick-me-up.
Which Celtics will fill the void?
Who are the three Celtics role players who must step up with Williams out?
3. Grant Williams
Grant Williams, who has turned into a 3-point machine, ranks seventh in 3-point shooting in the NBA.
This is coming from the man who started his NBA career 0-for-26 from downtown.
Williams was a part of a very successful Celtics ballclub early in his career in 2019.
Boston began that season 10-1.
Prior to Monday’s loss, the Celtics were 10-1 in their previous 11 games.
At the beginning of his career, Williams was close to the end of the bench.
Now, he is the only Celtics bench player with more than six points per game having played more than 20 games with the team this season.
Williams, who scored 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds to go along with two blocks, looks to be ready to step up.
2. Payton Pritchard
Well, just like Grant Williams, Payton Pritchard has turned into a 3-point machine of his own.
Pritchard has entered the top 10 in 3-point shooting.
A lot of what was said about Williams can be said about Pritchard, who is in his second NBA season.
Pritchard saw a decrease in playing time before the Celtics traded away Dennis Schröder and Josh Richardson.
The Celtics should be playing more small ball, so he and his 48 percent 3-point shooting this month should be ready for more minutes.
1. Daniel Theis
The top candidate for more minutes — and more responsibility — is the Celtics’ man-from-the-past Daniel Theis.
Brad Stevens brought back his old big men with acquisitions of Horford and Theis over the last year.
It sure has paid off:
The trade for Daniel Theis now suddenly becomes, potentially, the most pivotal move of the deadline. How much of Rob’s slack can he pick up? How much of that role can he fill?
— John Karalis 🇬🇷 🇺🇦 (@John_Karalis) March 28, 2022
We will have to see if Theis can pick up Robert Williams’ slack.
In his first start with the Celtics this season, Theis put up 13 points and 10 rebounds in 41 minutes.
He also threw down this dunk:
Daniel Theis threw down a mean dunk on Pascal Siakam!
Celtics Run on Dunkin’ Presented by @dunkindonuts pic.twitter.com/4uM3hyrTmN
— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) March 29, 2022
It will not be easy for Theis to try to fill Williams’ shoes, but he will have to try his best.