With the collection tied at 1-1, the Boston Celtics walked into Wells Fargo Heart anticipating a battle towards the Philadelphia 76ers.
Joel Embiid had a full sport underneath his belt following his return from damage, he was awarded the 2022-23 NBA MVP award on the courtroom earlier than the sport, and the Philadelphia crowd was rocking.
Stopping Embiid is an inconceivable activity, however slowing him down has been Boston’s most important aim. They’ve proven their palms, accomplished their finest to defend with out fouling, and despatched double groups when wanted.
In Recreation 3, the Celtics cut up duties on Embiid, with each Marcus Sensible and Al Horford getting turns, however it was Grant Williams who took on the matchup for almost all of the competition.
“Embiid is the MVP. An enormous drive. It’s going take lots of us to attempt to comprise him,” stated Tatum. “You’re not going to cease him. And the issues that Grant does don’t all the time present up within the stat sheet, however he’s extraordinarily invaluable to our crew, and I feel it confirmed tonight.”
All through his time in Boston, Williams has performed an essential defensive function. From middle minutes in his rookie season to incomes the Batman nickname for his protection towards Nikola Jokic, he’s made his cash by taking part in massive on protection.
Towards Embiid, he discovered related success. Embiid clearly obtained his factors, dominating from the mid-range and feasting on the glass, however Williams and the Celtics stalled him simply sufficient to get the job accomplished.
Even when that meant getting his head caved in.
“I noticed Grant get his head stepped on by a 300-pound particular person,” stated Jaylen Brown. “And to see that reside was loopy. I noticed it in real-time. It was in all probability the craziest factor I’ve seen on a basketball courtroom.”
After bodying Embiid within the submit and slapping the ball away, Williams and Brown dove for it. Embiid adopted. However whereas the 2 Celtics had been on the bottom, Embiid had nowhere to go, and as he was falling backward, he stepped on the again of Williams’ head, planting his face into the hardwood.
Williams instantly clutched his face and was ultimately taken to the bench, the place blood could possibly be seen dripping down his face.
But just some performs later, he was again within the sport, guarding Embiid.
He didn’t even understand the severity of the incident till he rewatched the clip after the sport.
“Dang, I actually obtained curb-stomped,” stated Williams.
A video rapidly made the rounds on Twitter of Embiid apologizing to Williams following the play, however there have been no onerous emotions. “It’s the playoffs, brother,” Williams advised Embiid. “It’s what we battle for.”
Williams doubled down on this stance post-game however admitted that his face isn’t feeling too sizzling.
“It occurs, man,” stated Williams. “He was falling backward, and I’m simply grateful that he didn’t totally lean his weight onto it as a result of he positively obtained me fairly badly, however I feel he felt that he landed on one thing, so he picked his foot up. It hurts slightly bit.”
For Williams, this season has been an extended one. A sizzling begin rapidly transitioned right into a tough hunch within the second half of the season. He was hesitating on the three-point line, turning the ball over when driving, and getting blown previous on protection too simply.
To undergo that following an offseason of fruitless contract negotiations introduced a ton of stress. And with a brand new deal looming, the stress to carry out was at an all-time excessive. However he’s remained cool headed by way of all of it.
“Grant has been nice. Grant has been humble all yr lengthy,” stated Brown. “It’s been powerful for him. He’s an incredible a part of our crew. And we’ve challenged him in numerous methods, in his maturity stage, the power to play his function, the power to lift his stage, and get stops, and do what is required to be accomplished no matter typically his feelings and his emotions and the way he feels about sure conditions. You’ll be able to’t ask for nothing higher than that.”
In Boston’s first-round matchup towards the Atlanta Hawks, his taking part in time was scattered. An enormous-time exhibiting in a Recreation 3 loss led to two-straight video games of barely touching the courtroom. He helped shut issues out in Recreation 6, however was by no means a part of the common rotation.
That every one modified towards the 76ers, as he’s been employed as a major defender on Embiid.
Williams has remained a necessary a part of this Celtics crew by way of all of the criticism, slumps, and missed free throws. He’s keen to place his physique on the road if it means getting a win. It’s simply who he’s.
“You see him get his head smashed into the courtroom and get again up with a smile on his face—that’s Grant Williams,” Brown stated.