Tuesday night’s win against the Sacramento Kings marked a few occasions for the Boston Celtics.
It concluded an overall sluggish two-week road trip on a high note and also marked the much-awaited return of defensive anchor Robert Williams, who missed the previous eight Celtics contests due to a strained left hamstring.
Boston elected to take a cautious approach with Williams, not inserting him into the starting lineup and playing the 25-year-old 21 minutes off the bench. Playing for just the third time in the month of March, Williams scored six points, grabbed seven rebounds and recorded a block, but head coach Joe Mazzulla noted what he provided the C’s, box score aside.
“Just his overall presence and joy,” Mazzulla told reporters, as seen on NBC Sports Boston’s postgame coverage. “He doesn’t care whether he starts, whether he comes off the bench, whether he plays 20 minutes, 30, he doesn’t care. He just brings a level of joy to the team and guys that play with him. He just makes people around him better.”
With Boston battling through a relatively underwhelming night-to-night showing against subpar competitors, interior defense and rebounding were just two of several areas that constantly haunted the Celtics. But even with Williams limited in Mazzulla’s rotation, the veteran big proved to be a difference-maker in helping the C’s get back on track amid a crucial final season stretch.
“Because of his vertical spacing, teams pull in more,” Mazzulla said. “And then on defense, he brings a different presence. And so we were able to change our matchups relatively — almost every couple possessions because of his versatility.”
The Celtics, back in the win column to end their six-game road trip, return to their home floor Friday night. Boston will host the Indiana Pacers at TD Garden with tip off scheduled for 7 p.m. ET.