Given the Boston Celtics have All-NBA talent Jayson Tatum, two-time NBA All-Star Jaylen Brown and a handful of others who have showcased their shot-making ability, one might be surprised to hear it was Grant Williams dribbling to the rim for the final shot of Saturday’s game.
But that’s just how it played out against the Utah Jazz as the Celtics coughed up a 19-point, first-half lead and were handed a 118-117 loss to the Western Conference’s No. 11 seed.
Both the result itself and the game’s final play were nothing short of a disaster.
Williams, who finished with 23 points on 7-for-12 from long range, ultimately was blocked at the rim by Utah’s Walker Kessler before the buzzer sounded. Williams broke down what he saw on the play, which featured Tatum standing at half court and Brown slipping into the corner when the shot went up.
“The play was designed to get the ball to JT,” Williams told reporters after the game, per Sports Illustrated’s Bobby Krivitsky. “Normally, a big is the one that’s guarding, but they took the guy off the ball; they took Lauri (Markkanen) off the ball, so I got open against Lauri. As soon as I caught it, I was deep in the paint — or, not the paint, I was running in the lane.
“So, I took the dribble, tried to look up and see if anybody was available. JB fell to my left. (I) potentially had Sam (Hauser) to my right for a shot. And then, by then, there was probably three seconds left on the clock. JT was in the backcourt, Malcolm (Brogdon) was still out of bounds. So, it was like, I’ve gotta get a shot up at least,” Williams continued.
“So, I tried to make contact with Walker, shot fake, then trying to get the ball, at least off the glass, so (that) we could get an offensive rebound and tip.
“He made a good play. (He) got the ball and blocked it. After that, no time left,” Williams said. “We didn’t have any timeouts. So, it’s not like — when I caught it, I was like, we’ve gotta find a way to at least get a shot attempt, but there was no avenue in that scenario. I probably could have shot a floater; probably a better shot. Or even just tried to get that ball to Sam, but (the defender) did a good job of bluffing and getting back and forcing me into something else.”
Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla credited the Jazz for how they defended it, not having a defender on Malcolm Brogdon’s inbound pass and instead in the paint.
The Celtics have had success this season with plays that get Tatum a head of steam after he starts in the backcourt. But given that Tatum never become an option for Williams and Brogdon never stepped in bounds, it was as if Boston stopped playing and watched once Williams got the pass.
“They were kind of denying me the ball, and the ball was in Grant’s hands,” Tatum told reporters. “And he just had the option to go DHO to somebody else or go attack the basket. We have a baseline of what we try to do, but it’s all about the reaction. So, I don’t have an ego or anything. I wasn’t mad that Grant took that shot and didn’t pass it to me. It’s basketball. I want guys to play with instincts and just read the game.”
It wasn’t the only reason the Celtics lost, of course. Boston also was outrebounded 56-40 and allowed 17 offensive rebounds to the Jazz. But it nevertheless was an uninspiring late display in yet another underwhelming defeat.
Williams and the Celtics return to action Tuesday night against the Sacramento Kings.