Sunday, April 4, 2021

Causeway Street Weekly Recap: Robert Williams takes advantage of starter minutes, Celtics go 1-2 at home

It was not the greatest week for the Celtics, who finished 1-2 in their first three outings of their seven-game homestand at TD Garden.

After going 2-0 following the NBA trade deadline last week, Friday night's win over the second to worst team in the league when it comes to the Houston Rockets at 13-35, was the only saving grace for a Celtics roster that is still below .500 with a 24-25 record.

While Boston currently sits as the eighth seed at the start of April 4 and only 1.5 games out of fourth place, we look at the good and the bad in our recap of this past week plus, look ahead to the next seven days as the Celtics look to make a push up the standings instead of down.

Game of the Week: Rockets @ Boston -

With two straight losses to start the week, the Celtics' win against the Rockets without John Wall or Eric Gordon Friday night turned out to be the team's best game of the week almost by default.

Rather than having individual success, the Celtics as a whole received production across the board, especially from the bench with Evan Fournier's 23-point outburst, which included scoring six-straight 3-pointers in the final frame. Making a total of 7 3's, Fournier's hot shooting was encouraging, especially after scoring six points combined in his first two games with the team. 

Robert Williams also had a fantastic game scoring 20 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists along with two blocks. Williams produced on both ends of the floor on Friday night and played a large role in the team's improved ball movement. 

Smart wasn't heavily involved offensively, but he created for others with his 10 assists on the night; something that helped the rest of the team shoot over 50% from the field. Tatum and Brown both delivered, with 26 points and 22 points respectively-- contributing to five players scoring in double figures. To be fair the Rockets aren't a great team overall, but having their top six players all contribute and shoot efficiently during their best game of the week definitely built some confidence. 

Stud of the Week: Robert Williams -

Since taking over the starting job after Daniel Theis was traded to the Chicago Bulls at the deadline, Robert Williams has been taking full advantage of his opportunities. In four games as a starter this season, Williams has splits of 10.8 points, 10.5 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 3.0 blocks, and shooting 70.8% from the field. 

While a majority of his work has come in the paint, Williams' development into a more complete player, especially this week, was a big step forward to securing a starting spot. Not known for his scoring, Williams continued to make his presence felt primarily on the defensive end blocking five shots in his first start against the Bucks last week. 

He carried that over to this week, having a three-block performance against the Pelicans Monday night and adding two more Friday night. Missing Wednesday night's game due to a non-COVID related illness, Williams didn't miss a beat in his return Friday in a near triple-double effort. If the Celtics weren't blowing the Rockets out by so much, Williams could have easily earned his first career triple-double, especially with Fournier's big night scoring-- who Williams was setting up in the fourth-quarter with his passing. 

Players like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum could have easily been in this conversation, but Williams' performances earned the recognition this week.

Stinker of the Week: Mavericks @ Boston -

After a near 17-point comeback rally against the New Orleans Pelicans in front of fans at the Garden for the first time this season, the Celtics followed that up with a horrible shooting display -- especially from deep going 11-of-47 for 23.4% of made attempts -- when they hosted the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night.

With Robert Williams a late-game scratch just prior to tip-off, Kristaps Porzingis took full advantage scoring 19 points and grabbing eight rebounds. Boston also had no answer for superstar Luka Doncic, who scored 24 of his 36 points in the first half and hit seven of the Mavs' 19 from behind the arc.

Aside from the Celtics' defense allowing Dallas to shoot nearly 50% from the field and 3-point range, Jayson Tatum scored 25 points on 24 shots attempted, including going 1-of-8 from 3. Without Williams or Tristan Thompson (health and safety protocol) in the lineup, the C's bigs combined for six points on 3-of-11 shooting, seven rebounds, two assists and a block on the night.

The only silver lining in this one was that the Celtics cut a 23-point deficit to single digits (two-points) with 16.4 seconds left before Marcus Smart tried to purposely miss a free throw attempt after making the first one to possibly grab a rebound, but he hit it too hard off the glass and the ball never touched the rim in the final five seconds of the loss.

Dud of the Week: Celtics Bench -

The Celtics second unit has been one of the team's Achilles heel this season due to COVID protocol and injuries, so the addition of Evan Fournier (19.7 points per-game) was suppose to give the bench that much needed spark. Outside of Friday night's win over the Rockets, where Fournier scored 23, the rest of the reserves combined for 10 points in a blowout.

In three games this past week, Boston's bench has gone 25-of-47 from the field and 15-of-46 from 3 for an average of 26 points, to go along with 11.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists per contest.

Fournier had shot 3-of-16 in two games prior to his outburst against the Rockets, including going 0-of-10 versus the Mavs.

What to Look for This Week: vs. Hornets (4/4), 76ers (4/6), Knicks (4/7) and Timberwolves (4/9) -

Can Fournier Continue to Stay Hot?

As the Celtics continue their long homestand, there are various storylines to follow this week when they'll host the Hornets, 76ers, Knicks and Timberwolves. One important thing to keep an eye on is whether Evan Fournier's hot shooting will continue. Can he provide Boston with a solid scorer off the bench or will he take a step back and shoot like he did in his debut?

Fournier definitely looked lost during his first two games with the Celtics and didn't seem confident shooting the ball. Now with three games under his belt in Boston, how will he respond? Adapting to a new situation isn't easy and it was just a matter of time for Fournier to find his shot and grow into his new role. 

After being one of the prime scoring options in Orlando it was going to be difficult transitioning into being the fourth scoring option at best in Boston. It'll be interesting to see if his big game on Friday night builds back his confidence and he becomes a 15-20 point scorer the rest of the season and into the playoffs. He's only played one good game for the Celtics thus far, so the biggest question with him is whether he'll be able to do that more consistently.

Could the Celtics Start a New Win-Streak?

One thing that has been missing with this team has been consistency. The Celtics have three players that could score over 20 points on any given night, but inefficiency and "hero-ball" have hindered Boston from sustaining success. The struggles on the defensive end has also played a role which is a big reason why the Celtics are under .500. 

With Fourneir adjusting to his new role and Robert Williams emerging as their starting big, the biggest question heading into the week is whether the Celtics can start a win streak and climb up the standings. At the bottom of the Eastern Conference Boston is in danger of participating in the Play-In Tournament. Will they fix their defensive deficiencies and continue moving the ball, or will they divert back to isolation, taking bad shots, and allowing over 100 points every night? 

The Celtics definitely have some talent to jump back up the standings, but consistency will be the key to starting a win streak. They haven't proven they could consistently play their best basketball this season, so how will the Celtics respond next week? They'll have some tough matchups featuring the Hornets, 76ers and Knicks, who are all in front of them in the standings, but they could definitely win against the Timberwolves to close out their home-stand on a positive note. It'll just depend on which Celtic team decides to show up in those matchups. 


Ian Carrano

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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