Robert Williams made his long-awaited return to the Celtics on Saturday night as Boston firmly put itself in the driver’s seat with a Game 3 victory over the Brooklyn Nets.
Williams, who had not played since March 27 due to a torn meniscus that required surgery, saw a limited role while playing 16 minutes off the bench. While his two points and two rebounds don’t exactly stand out on the stat sheet, his Celtics teammates were thrilled to have him back and quickly witnessed his impact.
“I was extremely excited. I might be Rob’s biggest fan. Rob and Bradley Beal probably my two favorite players,” Jayson Tatum said after scoring 39 points in the 109-103 win, per NBC Sports Boston. “So getting Rob back is huge for our team. Even in limited minutes, how much of an impact he made on the game. Even if it doesn’t show up (on the stat sheet), just his presence being a lob threat, rim protector, great passer. Rob was big for us off the bench. And, you know, if we’re going to do anything special this year, this postseason, we definitely need him.”
Jaylen Brown echoed Tatum’s sentiments.
“Rob looked pretty damn good to me,” Brown said, per NBC Sports Boston. “Came back, instant impact, you know, what he’s been doing all year protecting the rim. Had some big blocks and lobs. It was great to see him catch a lob. That was uplifting for everybody. And just his presence being there on the floor, knowing he’s behind us makes us feel good. And as we continue to go, we’re looking to him to continue to get his reps and come back strong looking to make a push.”
Williams’ initial timeline after surgery was four-to-six weeks. While Celtics head coach Ime Udoka consistently expressed how Boston was happy with the big man’s progress, the fact Williams returned within four weeks was a welcomed development.
Tatum acknowledged why Williams was able to do so.
“Just seeing how hard he’s been working. I think that’s what I’ve seen from Rob since he has been injured,” Tatum said. “How hard he’s been working to get back. Two-a-days, weight room, treatment. I’ve seen the maturity this last month. Because he knows how much he means to this team and how much we need him. I’ve seen how hard he’s worked and it just felt good to throw it in the air and have him go grab it.”
The Celtics return to the court for Game 4 on Monday with a chance to eliminate the Nets from the postseason.