The Boston Celtics fought bravely in the 2022 NBA Finals but ultimately ran out of gas against the Golden State Warriors. There’s no shame in losing to one of the top sports dynasties in the history of the NBA, but it does feel like a big missed opportunity for a young Celtics team. Just making it to the Finals required so much from them, but they could not finish it.
Many of the issues you have probably already heard about regarding Boston falling apart ring true. They turned the ball over too much, allowed too many offensive rebounds, and struggled to keep Steph Curry quiet most of the series. It didn’t help that star players Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown struggled for long stretches of the series too. In fact, for most of the series, the Celtics’ best player wasn’t Tatum or Brown but their injured center Robert Williams.
Williams gave the Celtics everything he had on both ends of the floor
On the surface, Williams’ counting stats for the Finals are not outrageously impressive. He averaged 7.5 points per game, 7.5 rebounds per game, and 2.8 blocks per game. The blocks are exceptional, but everything else seems pretty average for Williams.
The stats don’t tell you that Golden State had to entirely alter their playstyle when Williams was on the court, though. Williams is one of the best shot-blocking bigs in the league, and with him lurking in the paint, the Warriors had to think twice about driving to the rim against him. This allowed the Celtics to play tougher defense at the three-point line, making an already challenging task for Golden State even harder.
Offensively, Williams’ presence in the paint again helped open things up for Boston. The Warriors were very good at playing help defense on drives to the paint, but with Williams lurking as a threat for lob passes and rebounding, Golden State had to be careful with the amount of help they applied on Boston’s rolls to the rim. They did an excellent job of limiting Williams, but his teammates had much more space to work with when he was on the floor.
Of course, this seems like a recipe for success for Boston, but considering all their mistakes, it limited Williams’ impact. The C’s half-court defense remained superb, but they allowed Golden State to run out in transition or on the fast break for most of their offensive production. Had the Celtics played a cleaner game, Williams’ impact would have been harder to miss.
The Celtics and Williams should only get better next season
Williams’ impact in the Finals, and the playoffs as a whole, is awe-inspiring, considering he wasn’t 100 percent healthy throughout the entire thing. He tore his meniscus less than a month before the playoffs started and then suffered a bone bruise in their series against the Milwaukee Bucks, which also stuck with him for the rest of the playoffs.
It’s also worth noting that this was Williams’ first season as a full-time starter for Boston, and he earned himself a spot on the NBA’s All-Defensive Second Team. Williams still had a massive impact on the C’s even as he battled a couple of painful injuries throughout the postseason.
The fact that Boston made it to the Finals is mightily impressive, and with a healthy Williams in tow and collective growth from the rest of their team, it’s not a stretch to expect them to continue to be contenders for the foreseeable future. If Williams is this good when he’s not fully healthy, the rest of the league should be scared to see him and the Celtics when they are at 100 percent next season.