Celtics vs. Bucks: Grant Williams blasts his way into Boston lore with career-best Game 7 performance

Celtics vs. Bucks: Grant Williams blasts his way into Boston lore with career-best Game 7 performance

Grant Williams was hardly a 3-point threat when he entered the NBA. His teammates mockingly called him “Ben Simmons” after missing the first 25 attempts of his career, and they hatched a plan – forgotten for now by everyone except Brad Wannamaker – only to “pass out” on the bench when he finally had one to do.

The message in Sunday’s Game 7 was a little different: “I told him to let it fly,” Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka said. “They’re disrespecting you tonight.”

Williams listened and worked his way into Boston lore as he led the Celtics to a dominating 109-81 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks and the Eastern Conference Finals. His last line was 27 points, six rebounds and two blocks for 10 of 22 from the field and 7 of 18 from 3-point field.

With his big night, he set a new career high for points and 3-pointers scored, led the Celtics in scoring for the first time in his career, broke Steph Curry’s NBA record for 3-point attempts in a Game 7 and tied Curry’s record. for 3-point marks in a game 7.

“It’s hard to get into your head when your whole team, like 15 people, comes up to you and says ‘let it fly, keep shooting,'” Williams said. “For me it was like, okay, they’re encouraging it, so might as well take advantage of it. Over time, I got more comfortable, I kept shooting. I made a joke I shot 18 and that’s probably the most 3 I’ve shot in my life in a single match It was fun but just awesome we won.

The Bucks’ general defensive strategy since the arrival of head coach Mike Budenholzer has been to protect the paint at all costs, even if it means giving up 3 seconds. They leaned into this approach in Game 7 and essentially spun a large roulette wheel that they hoped would land on “missed 3s”. He does not have.

Williams made a wide open 3 on the first play of the game because Lopez didn’t follow it to the arc. Maybe it was just defensive miscommunication, but the Bucks made a conscious decision to leave Williams alone the rest of the time. Lopez camped in the paint to prevent the Celtics from getting anything easy on the rim and challenged Williams to win Game 7.

That’s exactly what he did with the best night of his career. Williams – or “Grant Curry” as he should now be called by Jaylen Brown – knew he would have to improve his shooting to stay and earn some league playing time, and on Sunday all efforts paid off. .

“Not the same but the bubble of my rookie year, Game 7 [against the Toronto Raptors]”Williams said. “I knew how intense it was, and being thrown in the fourth quarter after not playing and then getting that stoppage and blocking on [Fred] VanVleet. I remember going through these emotions. So I thought to myself, this is how tonight is going to be. You have to be ready for the ups and downs. If you asked me last year I’d probably be head over heels, carry on, but I think the work I’ve done over the last year and a half, two years, three years in the league has helped me put myself in this position. Glory not only to God in this sense, but to all those around me.”

Williams’ shot was the main story, but perhaps his most impressive individual moment came on the defensive end. He excelled there throughout the series, helping to lead the Celtics’ effort against Giannis Antetokounmpo. It was again one of his main tasks in Game 7, but he also came up with two blocks, including a stellar one on Bobby Portis that elicited his most adamant reaction.

As the Bucks tried unsuccessfully to make one final comeback, Portis slacked off in transition and went to the basket. Williams was the only one to return, and said it set up, “one of those moments you kinda have when you were a kid where you both line up and one of you is going to dunk the other or the other will block it.”

Williams emerged victorious and let out a massive roar and a fist pump – which the cameras, unfortunately, didn’t quite pick up – to the ecstatic Celtics crowd.

The Celtics’ playoff history is filled with unsung heroes: Don Nelson hit a miracle jumper in the closing minutes of Game 7 of the 1969 NBA Finals to help secure the title; Gerald Henderson’s late steal and score sent Game 2 of the 1984 Finals into overtime, and the Celtics won the game and the championship; PJ Brown came off the bench to make some huge shots in the stretch of the Celtics’ victory in Game 7 of the 2008 Eastern Conference Finals en route to ringside.

Although the stakes weren’t that high on Sunday, it was still Game 7 to eliminate the defending champions and the best player in the world, and Williams was only in the starting lineup due to the wound of Robert Williams III. No one will soon forget Williams’ performance, especially if the Celtics are able to carry on and secure another trophy.

“Grant played well tonight,” said Jayson Tatum. “And in the playoffs you need that. You need guys coming off the bench to be a star in their role. Grant won us a playoff game tonight, Game 7. I’m extremely happy for him. “

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