The Celtics were back to almost full strength when they faced the Kings on Tuesday for the first game since March 3. After missing the previous eight games, Robert Williams III returned to the court.
In spite of the fact that Williams wasn’t the only factor in the Celtics’ 132-109 victory over the Kings, his presence was notable. Williams’ return to the Celtics was highlighted by Jayson Tatum, who has frequently expressed his affection for the big man.
Tatum told reporters after the game, “Obviously we’re a lot bigger when he’s out there. “I feel like it simply makes us lot more vibrant. He is there. Even if he isn’t stopping shots, he might be deterring opponents from going for the basket. He is snatching up rebounds. providing us with additional chances. Definitely a threat from a lob.
“It was just great to have the whole team out there. Obviously we didn’t have (Payton Pritchard) out there. Having the starters and having Rob back makes us — we’re just a different team.”
Tuesday saw Williams end with six points, seven rebounds, and two made of four shots. Incidentally, Williams was not started as part of the double large lineup by Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla. Derrick White, who has worked well with the starters all season, was given the opportunity to start. Williams played a clean 21 minutes on Tuesday even though he was unrestricted.
Williams told Jay King of The Athletic after the game in Sacramento that there had been no setback in his attempt to return to the floor. The Celtics should have him close to full strength based on all of those encouraging signals. Getting Williams back up to game pace will be essential for the second-place C’s with only nine games left in the season.
The Celtics will also take chemistry into account moving ahead. Williams, Tatum, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, and Al Horford have all played in just 10 games and 81 minutes this year with the double large lineup. The lineup has largely struggled, but the sample size is too small to draw any significant conclusions.
But, the Celtics were at their best last season due of the defensively open lineup. Naturally, this year’s C’s are a different team with a different cast. Getting that five-man team some playing time over the final nine games of the season won’t hurt, though, if Mazzulla intends to use that lineup in the playoffs. Williams’ comeback is crucial for the C’s in particular because they are counting on him to stay healthy throughout the playoffs.