BOSTON (CBS) -- The Celtics were embarrassed by the Toronto Raptors in their home opener three weeks ago. The Raptors controlled the glass and they did whatever they wanted on offense, handing the Celtics a 32-point loss.
Boston went into Wednesday night's rematch at TD Garden looking to return the favor. They did just that, despite not having the services of Jaylen Brown and with Jayson Tatum struggling to hit anything from the floor.
The Celtics still got their revenge, 104-88, thanks in large part to a large man who crashed the boards with some absolute fury. That large man was, of course, Robert Williams.
Williams was a monster from the jump, taking advantage of Toronto's small lineup with Pascal Siakam getting the start at center. Williams consistently found himself with a much smaller defender thanks to Toronto's switch-happy defense, which gave him free rein on the offensive glass. C's head coach Ime Udoka had been urging Williams to be more aggressive when it came down to grabbing offensive boards, and the 24-year-old was up to the challenge Wednesday night.
Eight of Williams' 13 rebounds were off the offensive glass on Wednesday night, setting a new career-high. He pulled down three in the first seven minutes, and seven in the first half. Those extra opportunities led to 16 second-chance points for the Celtics.
Fittingly, the Celtics held a 16-point lead at halftime. It was a lead they would not relinquish, though Toronto never really let up in the second half. The Celtics tried to slow the pace in the third quarter, but the Raptors were able to cut the lead to eight at one point. Boston, however, never lost its intensity on the defensive end and walked off the floor with a 16-point win -- their first on their home floor.
Williams is getting more minutes than he's ever seen before, and he's making the most out of them. Wednesday night, the C's big man finished with 16 points off 8-for-11 shooting, with all of his makes coming in the paint. Each of his buckets were either off putbacks or lobs from teammates. Williams is leading the NBA with a 72.5 shooting percentage.
That chat with Udoka has worked wonders, too. After a slow start on the offensive glass, Williams is averaging five offensive boards over his last seven games.
"I felt like he wasn't going as hard as he could to the offensive glass, he was kind of just standing behind guys," Udoka said of his conversation with Williams. "Showed him some film and talked to him about the effort it takes and how he can impact the game. He has really worked on that over the last few games."
His aggressiveness carried over to the defensive side of the ball, and to the rest of the team as well. Boston surrendered just six offensive rebounds to the best offensive rebounding team in the league.
"It was all aggressiveness," Williams said after the game. "I feel like us as a team, we did a great job rebounding -- not just me. We did a great job with handling the physicality, and I felt like we've been lacking that. So we stepped up.
"We need that toughness," Williams added. "That's all I'm worried about right now: Toughness and effort."
Boston sits at 5-6 on the season, but even with Brown sidelined for a few weeks, the team appears to be coming together. They are finally forming an identity as a tough and gritty defensive team, something that was non-existent in the opening weeks of the season.
They used that identity -- and aggressiveness -- to get some revenge on Wednesday night.
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