How Joe Mazzulla Explained Celtics Not Utilizing Grant Williams In Game 1

Williams played valuable minutes against the Heat last postseason


May 18, 2023

Following an impressive one-game showing during the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Philadelphia 76ers, Celtics forward Grant Williams has been stapled to Boston’s bench next to head coach Joe Mazzulla.

Williams was there during the final three games of Boston’s semifinal series, his head-scratching minutes in Game 5 seemingly resulting in a loss of trust, and started the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat in the same position. Williams did not touch the floor in Boston’s Game 1 defeat as the Green rolled with an eight-man rotation including their double-big starting five along with backcourt reserves Malcolm Brogdon, Derrick White and Payton Pritchard. The first two should come as no surprise, of course, but seeing Pritchard play 12 minutes, after being inserted just nine minutes into the contest, was notable.

While speaking with the media Thursday, Mazzulla explained his personnel decisions, and specifically not utilizing Williams.

“We have a plan to use the depth that we need in order to give us the lineups that we think can really help us,” Mazzulla told reporters, per NBC Sports Boston. “Obviously in the playoffs when minutes are expanding you look to play seven or eight guys, which we’ve kind of done throughout. I think in the start, I thought Payton gave us an opportunity with his shooting, with his playmaking, his pick and roll defense.”

Pritchard finished 0-for-2 from the floor with one assist. There was at least one possession where Jimmy Butler hunted a matchup against Pritchard.

“Like we said before, Grant is always going to be ready,” Mazzulla added. “And we’ve built a lot of versatility and depth in our lineup to where we can go a lot of different ways. We trust that anybody that we call in will be ready.”

When at his best, Williams provides the Celtics with a physical presence on the defensive end and justifiable 3-point shooting. He locked down Sixers big man and NBA MVP Joel Embiid in Game 2 of the conference semifinals. Before that, he played extensive minutes against the Heat. During last year’s conference finals against Miami, both teams currently similar to what they were last year, Williams averaged more than 30 minutes per game while scoring 8.7 points with 4.1 rebounds on 39% from long range.

We’ll see if Mazzulla opts to switch up any of his rotations when the Celtics welcome the Heat for a pivotal Game 2 at TD Garden on Friday. The Green currently are a 9-point home favorite.

Thumbnail photo via Jim Rassol/USA TODAY Sports Images
Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler and Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown
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