He’s been called everything from Batman (by himself) to a mini Al Horford (Coach Ime Udoka), and based on how he has guarded Giannis Antetokounmpo and helped bail out the Celtics’ offense in Game 2, Grant Williams has provided some much-needed clout off the Celtics’ bench.

He scored a playoff career-high 21 points during the win over Milwaukee, shooting 6-for-9 from 3-point range and tying with Derrick White for a team-high plus-22. The Celtics were at their ball movement best on Tuesday night, with Williams a direct beneficiary. The more the Celtics swing and reverse the ball, and penetrate and kick, the more he benefits in the corners.

“Yeah, it’s just about making the right reads, making the right play. In the first game, we did kind of a poor job just getting rushed, just kind of forcing shots up,” he said. “The first 3 that we saw that was open, we shot no matter if there was three people flying at us. So tonight, we just knew that the more we moved it, the more opportunity that would be open. The way they rotate, the way they play defense, they protect one another, they have each other’s backs. So even sometimes they’ll send three people to the ball just because they know that they swing you one more time, that person gets going. So the intent that they’re playing with, you have to be prepared for. We did a good job adjusting tonight and just settling in and not letting them rush us or speed us up.”

The Celtics repeatedly attacked the Bucks’ close-outs, creating even more weak-side opportunities.

“Just their principles, knowing exactly what they do on their close-outs,” said Williams. “Who they close-out to, how they close-out certain areas. So for us, it was just a matter of that you saw somebody – depending on the matchup – if someone closes out on you, you might be able to drive it immediately because of their feet. You might be able to kick it, swing it, get it off because they’re going to over help after. Just about understanding who’s on the court at the time and who we want to attack. They do a great job having one another’s backs, but we know that we’re gonna get an open look if we keep moving it around.”

Williams’ 3-point impact is clearly on the rise. He’s shot 8 for 13 from downtown in two games against the Bucks, and overall in six playoff games he’s shooting 55% (16 for 29).


WHITE STRUGGLES: White’s plus-22 in Game 2 was illustrative of the combo guard’s value. He started in place of the injured Marcus Smart, and until Smart returns from a severe right thigh bruise, White’s importance will be magnified.

Now if only he can find the basket. Though his two 3-pointers in Game 1 were his first from downtown since Game 1 of the Brooklyn series, his touch froze altogether in Game 2, when he was 0 for 6, including 0 for 4 from downtown.

SMART SITUATION: Udoka expressed confidence that Smart’s absence won’t be a long-term matter, aided by the three-day gap between Game 2 and Saturday’s Game 3 in Milwaukee.

But the Celtics also drew confidence from their ability to dominate Game 2 despite Smart’s absence. That said, Smart kept himself visible from the bench, standing as much as the coaches.

“Obviously Defensive Player of the Year, kind of the heart and soul of the team,” said Jayson Tatum. “And I think the mindset and our identity is, especially when somebody is out, next man up. You’ve gotta be ready to fill in. The ship gotta keep going. So everybody gotta do a little bit more. Everybody gotta fight. And that’s what we did tonight. D White started, everybody contributed and competed. And we just kind of picked up where, if we would have had Smart, that toughness each possession. So we knew what we had to do.”

Said Williams: “We were just wanting to pick each other up, being there for each other. We know it’s next-man-up mentality for us. We’re a full team so we know when a guy goes down, we’ve got their backs. Losing Smart for the game, it’s one of those things that you never want to have happen because, especially the competitor that Smart is, the human that he is, we knew that we would have to come out here and compete and we still had to play a basketball game tonight. So he was there supporting us and being a great voice on the bench for us so the other guys could have some success.”

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