Watch CBS News

Grant Williams goes Steph Curry to lead Celtics to Game 7 win

Sports Final: Celtics beat Bucks, will run continue against Heat in Eastern Conference Finals?
Sports Final: Celtics beat Bucks, will run continue against Heat in Eastern Conference Finals? 05:43

BOSTON -- Anything can happen in a Game 7. Anything. Teams leave it all out on the floor, and usually, they need someone other than the usual suspects to step up with a big effort.

Grant Williams answered that call for the Celtics in Sunday's 109-81 trouncing of the Milwaukee Bucks. But the undersized forward didn't just have a big game. He had a colossal effort in the must-win clash, scoring a game-best -- and new career-high -- 27 points while knocking down 10 of his 22 shots.

You read that right; Grant Williams took 22 shots in a Game 7. More shots than both Jayson Tatum (14) and Jaylen Brown (16) for Boston. Only Giannis Antetokounmpo took more shots in the game, putting up 26 attempts, and that's because he always takes more shots than anyone else on the floor.

Williams took 18 of his shots from three-point land, tying Steph Curry -- perhaps the greatest shooters to ever touch a basketball -- for the most three-point attempts in a Game 7. Williams made seven of them, which also tied Curry -- and the L.A. Clippers version of Marcus Morris -- for the most threes in a Game 7.

"Grant Williams" isn't the name you'd expect to see next to a sharpshooter like Curry in the history books, but there he is after the best game of his career. That it came in a Game 7 made it all the more amazing for both Williams and the Celtics.

And this performance just so happened to come five years to the day of Kelly Olynyk lighting it up in a Game 7 for the Celtics. Back on May 15, 2017, Olynyk scored 12 of his 26 points in a three-and-a-half minute stretch in the fourth quarter to help lead Boston to a 115-105 win over the Washington Wizards in the final game of their second-round series.

Improbable? Absolutely. Unexpected? Not really. Not for the Celtics.

Again, anything can happen in a Game 7. And the Bucks were more than happy to leave Williams on an island from just about everywhere on the floor. Their focus was on keeping Tatum and Brown in check, even if it meant ignoring Williams.

The problem is that Williams has turned himself into a pretty solid shooter from downtown. The man who started his NBA career by missing his first 25 shots from deep has worked his butt off to expand his range. It has paid off, with Williams hitting a career-high 41 percent from three-point range during the regular season.

But his shot had been off for most of the series with Milwaukee. After going 6-for-9 from three and scoring 21 points in game two, the deep shot dried up a bit for Williams. He missed all six of his threes between Games 5 and 6, and was 5-for-24 from long distance over the four games leading into Game 7. So again, you could see where the Bucks were coming from with their game plan on Sunday.

And it seemed to be a good plan when Williams started 2-for-7 from deep. But that didn't stop the Celtics from encouraging him from letting them sail.

"I told him to 'let it fly -- they're disrespecting you more tonight than earlier in the series.' That was the plan with him and other guys; making them shift," Ime Udoka said after the win. "You saw it after he made his first and then missed a few, he became hesitant. But I told him to shoot the ball, what else can you do? Stop driving into people and take the shot they give you.

"Then he broke Steph Curry's record for attempts in a Game 7. Two Charlotte shooters, and he's going to gloat about that for a while," added Udoka.

Williams was worried after his rough start, but said that it's hard to get in your own head when 15 other guys are encouraging you keep shooting.

"Originally, it started to work for [the Bucks] a little bit, but then I started making shots so they had to switch it up," Williams said of Milwaukee's game plan. "I think they put Pat Connaughton or someone else on me. So it was just a matter of if that's how they want to play it. I've worked on my shot enough to be able to knock those down and be confident enough to shoot them. And I think my teammates know that if I get 18, then I'll make 40 percent of them at least. It was just a matter of continuing to execute what we wanted to do, get those open looks, and take advantage of them."

If one thing is clear with Williams' teammates, it's that they love to rag on him and give him a tough time. But it's all out of love; he's a guy they love to share the floor with because of his unselfish ways and his do-it-all attitude -- even if he does talk their ears off.

On Sunday, they all told him to be selfish. Take those shots that the Bucks were giving him -- and make them pay.

"That is what they were giving us," said Brown. "It was almost like they were using that defender to stop me and Jayson from getting where we wanted. We had to make that pass and he was wide open. We trust all our guys and Grant is a great shooter. He came through.

"We call him Grant 'Curry' now," Jaylen joked.

Williams was at this best in the third quarter. He drained a three in the first minute of the frame to push Boston's lead to 10, and then came up huge after Tatum picked up his fourth foul with 7:44 left in the quarter. Despite their best player being on the bench, the wide open looks were right there for Williams. And he kept hitting them, draining two more threes (while adding a nice dunk) to help the Celtics add to their lead while Tatum was sitting. Williams scored 11 in the third quarter, and hit his final three early in the fourth to put the Celtics up by 16 points.

Tatum said that Williams played "great" on Sunday, providing the Celtics with exactly what they needed.

"He took more shots than anybody on the team and I think that's a first. He took 18 threes; I told him not to get used to that," Tatum joked. "But we needed him and he came up big, played amazing. In the playoffs you need that; you need guys coming off the bench to be a star in that role. Grant won us a playoff game tonight -- a Game 7. I'm extremely happy for him."

Game 7 was Williams' big moment, and he seized it to help lead the Celtics to a huge series win. He continued to play tough defense on Giannis, and absolutely exploded on the offensive end.

With the gift of gab in addition to his three-point prowess, you'd expect that Williams had a lot to say after Sunday's monster performance. It's not every day that he gets mentioned in the same breath as Steph Curry -- at least not in a serious fashion.

But Williams isn't focused on that. Not with the Eastern Conference Finals against the top-seeded Miami Heat just two days away.

"I remember they told me I tied the record for Game 7, and that's pretty cool to be happy about. Forget about it tomorrow though, because we have to get ready for the Heat," he said.

Williams probably won't be getting those open looks against the Heat, who unlike the Bucks, focus on defending the perimeter. Everyone on the Celtics is expecting another tough, grind-it-out series against Miami, with a trip to the NBA Finals on the line.

But Williams will make an impact somehow. Whether it's as a pesky defender, a smart passer or a three-point deadeye, he has become a big part the equation in Boston.

EMERGENCY COMPONENT - LOCAL

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.