Celtics’ Title Chances Take Huge Hit With Robert Williams Out

Robert Williams III, Boston Celtics, NBA News
NBA Analysis Network

The Boston Celtics have been one of the hottest teams in the NBA as of late, winning 24 of their last 28 games to elevate themselves into a tie for the 1-seed in the Eastern Conference with the Miami Heat, but they suffered a “gut punch” on Sunday when their defensive anchor at center in Robert Williams III went down with a knee injury. 

Late in the third quarter of the Celtics’ 134-112 victory over the Timberwolves, Williams appeared to suffer a non-contact left knee injury going to defend a ball-screen. Following him limping and appearing to be in some pain, the Celtics called a timeout to get him out of the game. 

On Monday, it was revealed that an MRI confirmed Robert Williams III had suffered a meniscus tear in his left knee and that he will miss several weeks at minimum, first reported by ESPN

The Celtics have been one of the best defensive teams in the league as of late and the 24-year-old big man has been a big reason for their success, averaging 2.2 blocks per game and leading the league in defensive rating. 

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This has been a career-year for Robert Williams as the Celtics’ starting center and now, just a few weeks ahead of the playoffs, Boston will have to re-group and try to find ways to continue their success without one of the best overall defenders in the entire league. 

In his absence, Daniel Theis, who the team re-acquired at the trade deadline this season, will step up into a much bigger role in the frontcourt, as will veteran Al Horford and forward Grant Williams. 

Overall though, even more pressure gets put on the Celtics’ two young stars in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who have carried the scoring load all season long. 

Combined, Tatum and Brown have averaged 50.5 points per game this season and over the team’s last 28 games, this duo has been one of the league’s best, averaging upwards of 52.5 points per game. 

LATEST NBA NEWS: Do The Celtics Have What It Takes To Go On Title Run?

Defensively, they have each stepped up to play their respective roles on the perimeter and now, with Robert Williams III out indefinitely, Tatum and Brown will be leaned on to help the Celtics on the defensive glass, as the Celtics currently rank fourth in the league in rebounding this season. 

The Celtics’ overall lack of depth has been challenged all year long and they are severely limited in their frontcourt. An injury to Robert Williams was the last thing this organization needed on the cusp of the playoffs and possibly clinching the 1-seed in the Eastern Conference for the first-time since the 2016-17 season. 

Without Williams, the Celtics have virtually no rim-protection, no athleticism in their frontcourt and really no backup center that fits the mold of the young big man. 

Daniel Theis and Al Horford are not athletic threats in the frontcourt, especially in pick-and-roll sets offensively, so it will be very interesting to see what first-year head coach Ime Udoka does in terms of the Celtics’ rotations the rest of the way. 

LATEST NBA NEWS: Do The Celtics Have What It Takes To Go On Title Run?

Overall though, the Celtics now go from a real contending threat in the Eastern Conference to a team that could possibly be picked apart defensively due to their lack of size and interior presence. 

They are still a very impressive team in the East, but the Celtics are now extremely vulnerable, especially since their starting-five rotation of Smart/Brown/Tatum/Horford/Williams was one of the highest rated groups in the league both offensively and defensively. 

Take one of these guys out of the equation and all of a sudden, this Celtics’ team that has been so dominant over the last few months is left scrambling for answers on both ends of the court. 

In the midst of cementing his spot on the All-Defensive team this season and possibly receiving votes for Defensive Player of the Year, Robert Williams III will now have to deal with a major setback that could derail the Celtics’ season.

About Brett Siegel 1870 Articles
Brett Siegel joined NBA Analysis Network as an NBA Insider and Journalist in 2020 after previously working with Louisville Basketball and FanSided covering the NBA. He was a member of our staff until April 2022.