The Boston Celtics started and ended with Robert Williams on Friday night.
Early in their game against the Houston Rockets, the Celtics’ defensive effort wasn’t matching the other side of the ball. On offense, they moved the ball well and everyone was contributing. To start on defense, though, Boston struggled to defend without fouling.
But coming out of that first quarter, Williams racked up six points, four rebounds, three assists and a steal. He kept that same energy in the second, where the Celtics broke, but didn’t bend.
The third-year center finished with 20 points (career high), nine rebounds, eight assists (also a career high), two blocks and a steal. And his energy lifted the rest of his team en route to a 118-102 win.
“Yeah my performance tonight is strictly a confidence booster, 1,000 percent,” Williams said after the game. “And I just see my job being the defensive anchor, you know, kind of the quarterback of seeing everything, directing people. That’s my job.”
Sure, Williams’ athleticism helps him around the rim on both ends. But his facilitating skills were on full display against Houston, and he personally made effort to get one of his newest teammates involved in Evan Fournier.
“Rob is special, I love playing with him, you know, he’s an underrated passer, I think that’s one of the best things that he does,” teammate Jayson Tatum said after the game.
“Obviously notice, run protection plays above the ground. And just his voice, you know, he’s talking out there. His presence just makes a difference when he’s out there.”
Williams has a long way to go, only three years into his young career.
But he’s taking full advantage of the opportunity he’s been given since Daniel Theis was traded and Tristan Thompson entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols.
No one anticipated he’d make such a jump in his game this year, but the Celtics should be prioritizing as much playing time as possible for Williams based on what he’s shown this season — especially in the handful of starts he’s had.
“I’m just feeling great, honestly,” Williams said. “Obviously getting way more comfortable with more minutes I play. I feel like if it stays that way I’m going to get better.”
Yeah, that’s a safe bet.