Celtics’ Grant Williams makes his way into Boston folklore with career-best performance in Game 7 against the Bucks

Grant Williams was barely a 3-point threat when he entered the NBA. his companions derisively called he “Ben Simmons” after he missed the first 25 attempts of his career, and they hatched a plan, forgotten at this point by everyone except Brad Wannamaker – to “pass out” on the bench when he finally got one to go.

The message during Game 7 on Sunday was a little different: “I told him to let it fly,” Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka said. “You are being disrespected tonight.”

Williams listened and made his way into Boston folklore as he guided the Celtics to a commanding 109-81 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks and to the Eastern Conference finals. His bottom line was 27 points, six rebounds and two blocks on 10 of 22 from the field and 7 of 18 from the ground for 3 points.

With his big night, he set career highs in points and 3-pointers, led the Celtics in scoring for the first time in his career, broke Steph Curry’s NBA record for 3-point attempts in a Game 7, and tied Curry’s record in triples. point makes in a Game 7.

“It’s hard to get into your own head when your whole team, like 15 people, come up to you and say ‘let it fly, keep shooting,'” Williams said. “For me it was like, okay, they’re rooting for him, so I might as well take advantage. As time went on, I got more comfortable, I kept shooting. I made a joke, I shot 18 and that’s probably the most 3s I have shot.” in my life in one game. It was fun but cool, we got a win.”

The Bucks’ overall defensive strategy since coach Mike Budenholzer came in has been to protect the paint at all costs, even if it means giving up 3-pointers. They went with that approach in Game 7, essentially spinning a big roulette wheel that they hoped would land on “lost 3s.” He did not do it.

Williams made an open 3-pointer on the first play of the game because Lopez didn’t follow him to the arc. That may have just been a defensive miscommunication, but the Bucks made the decision to leave Williams alone the rest of the time. Lopez camped out in the paint to prevent the Celtics from having anything easy at the rim and challenged Williams to win Game 7.

He did just that with the best night of his career. Williams, or “Grant Curry,” as he should now be called according to Jaylen Brown, knew he would have to improve his shooting to stay and earn playing time in the league, and all the effort paid off on Sunday. .

“It’s not the same, but the bubble from my rookie year, Game 7 [against the Toronto Raptors]Williams said. [Fred] VanVleet. I remember going through those emotions. So I thought, this is how it will be tonight. You have to be prepared for the ups and downs. If you asked me last year, I’d probably be crestfallen, I’d move on, but I think the work that I’ve put in over the last year and a half, two years, three years in the league has helped put me in this. position. Glory not only to God in that sense, but to all those around me.”

Williams’ shooting was the main story, but his most impressive individual moment may have come on the defensive end. He excelled there throughout the series, helping lead the Celtics’ efforts against Giannis Antetokounmpo. That was one of his main tasks once again in Game 7, but he also came up with two blocks, including a stellar one over Bobby Portis that drew the most emphatic reaction from him.

As the Bucks tried in vain to make one last comeback, Portis got loose in transition and went hard to the basket. Williams was the only one to return, and said he set up, “one of those moments you have as a kid where you both line up and one of you is going to dunk the other or the other is going to block.”

Williams came out on top and let out a massive roar and punch, which the cameras, unfortunately, didn’t quite catch, to the ecstatic Celtics crowd.

The Celtics’ playoff history is littered with unsung heroes: Don Nelson hit a miraculous jump shot in the closing minutes of Game 7 of the 1969 NBA Finals to help clinch the title; Gerald Henderson’s late steal and touchdown sent Game 2 of the 1984 Finals into overtime, with the Celtics winning the game and the championship; PJ Brown came off the bench to make some huge shots down the stretch of the Celtics’ victory in Game 7 of the 2008 Eastern Conference semifinals, en route to a ring.

While the stakes weren’t quite as high on Sunday, it was still a Game 7 to eliminate the defending champions and the best player in the world, and Williams was only in the starting lineup due to injury to Robert Williams III. No one will forget Williams’ performance any time soon, especially if the Celtics can go on and get another trophy.

“Grant played very well tonight,” Jayson Tatum said. “And in the playoffs you need that. You need guys that come off the bench to be a star in his role. Grant won us a playoff game tonight, a Game 7. I’m extremely happy for him.”

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