By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- Boston Celtics fans wanted to see two things Wednesday night: A Celtics victory, and playing time for Robert Williams. They got both of those requests -- in a big way.
The Celtics took out their frustrations on the Nets down in Orlando, demolishing Brooklyn 149-114 to get to 2-2 in the NBA restart. It was a great follow-up to Tuesday night's disappointing defeat at the hands of the Miami Heat.
While Jaylen Brown led the way with 21 points, and a total of seven Celtics scored in double figures, it was the man known as Timelord who stole the show. Now that he is healthy, Celtics fans have been clamoring for some run for Williams. There was hope at the beginning of the season that he'd serve as a valuable big man off the bench, but a hip injury derailed those chances.
The 22-year-old saw his first action of the NBA bubble season and did not disappoint. Williams poured in 18 emphatic points in his 19 minutes off the bench, adding five rebounds and a trio of rejections. Those 18 points were a career-high, and they came off 7-for-7 shooting. He set picks for others to get open, and when he rolled, it usually ended with a fervent slam. It added a new wrinkle to the Boston offense, a giant presence that has been missing nearly all season.
Given the fact he hadn't play many meaningful minutes this season, Williams did take a little time to get comfortable against the Nets. He appeared anxious at first, which in the past, has led to some early fouls and a quick trip back to the bench. That was not the case Thursday, as Williams calmed down and went on to have his best game in the NBA.
"Rob, obviously, gave us a lot once he got settled in defensively, and then offensively, he gave us a lot at the rim all day," said head coach Brad Stevens.
Knowing his role behind Boston's more talented scorers, Williams said his job is simple: Provide some energy. If he does that on the floor, the rest of his game will follow.
"It's just the will to want to win. Whenever I get thrown in I want to provide energy to the team," he said. "I feel like a lot of the young guys brought a lot of energy tonight."
That perfect night from the floor obviously comes with the caveat that Williams is a large human taking shots close to the basket. Five of those makes were dunks, including a pair of alley-oops. But he also made a 20-foot jumper, something we hadn't seen in game action out of Williams. Nailing that shot was a nice confidence boost for Williams, who has been working on that shot in practice.
He also showed off the ability to play his defense against a smaller lineup. Early in Williams' time on the floor, the Nets tried to counter with a miniature lineup, with 6-foot-9 small forward Rodions Kurucs playing "center." Williams had some issues early, but quickly adjusted. Stevens applauded the big man for being ready for what the Nets threw at him.
It was the kind of performance that should get Williams some more playing time in Boston's four remaining seeding games, and potentially when the playoffs begin. Williams has not let his growing collection of DNP-CD deter him, and on Wednesday, he was finally rewarded for his patience and hard work. The real test will come Friday night, when the Celtics play the Toronto Raptors, but don't be shocked if Williams sees another handful of minutes in an important game for Boston.
And if he shows the kind of energy on both ends of the floor that he displayed Thursday, then Williams may have finally shown that he deserves to be in Stevens' rotation during Boston's playoff run.
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