As the misses began to pile up, and the friendly ribbing started to get a little awkward the first two months of the season, Grant Williams kept a smile on his face and insisted he would be fine.
No one really thought his early-season shooting struggles would be everlasting, but seeing 25 consecutive 3-pointers thud off of rims, instead of going through them, can start to wear on anyone.
All along, though, Williams envisioned nights like Friday, when the basket suddenly looked two sizes too big, when the crowd was roaring rather than groaning, when those 3-point shots just felt, well, normal.
“That confidence was there before,” Williams said. “I wasn’t hesitant. They just hadn’t gone down. Now, it’s just I keep shooting them and my teammates want me to. I take the good and open ones, and sometimes the ones they yell at me for not shooting.”
In 30 minutes against the Pistons, Williams made 8 of 10 shots and 2 of 3 3-pointers en route to a career-high 18 points in Boston’s 114-93 romp. He entered the night with just 52 points all season.
The 0 for 25 long-range slump he opened the season with is shrinking further into the past, as he has now connected on 4 of his last 7 tries from beyond the arc.
“My only concern is guys getting too down, or once you start thinking bad about yourself or too much about yourself, you’re in trouble in this league,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “So it’s best to just stay the course, keep working, stay even-keeled, get better, and I think he has done that thus far, and I think he’s also got a bunch of teammates that are cheering him on every step of the way, which I think is really good, too.”
With Marcus Smart, Gordon Hayward, and Robert Williams all sidelined, and Hayward the only one who sounds like he could play Sunday, Boston will be looking for contributions from sources beyond its core. Grant Williams’s boost was a good example of what that looks like.
Of course, the rest of the core is pretty capable, too, and that is part of the reason Williams played so much. The score was so lopsided that Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown watched the entire fourth quarter from the bench, their respective 26-point nights and ascending All-Star candidacies tucked comfortably away.
The two combined to make 19 of 30 shots, with Brown’s improved and patient approach to drives and pull-ups continuing to serve him well.
Tatum and Brown helped All-Star point guard Kemba Walker shake off his worst game as a Celtic. He missed all six of his shots, and had 2 points and 7 turnovers. The fact that the score was so lopsided anyway offers a good indication of the challenge the wobbly and also undermanned Pistons posed.
Detroit, which was without three key rotation players and is not viewed as an especially dangerous team even with them, committed 25 turnovers, and sometimes appeared to be moving as smoothly as one might while running on ice with shoelaces tied together.
Celtics centers Daniel Theis (four blocks) and Enes Kanter (18 rebounds) combined to mostly limit Pistons star Andre Drummond, who had 12 points, 11 rebounds and 6 turnovers. While Boston’s center spot remains a position that could probably use an upgrade, the current rotation has done enough to prove that a change will not be essential.
“They did a great job of boxing out, of taking two guys and taking Andre out,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “But again, our biggest nemesis was our turnovers. You’re not going to beat a junior high team turning the ball over 25 times.”
As the margin continued to widen Friday, most of the sellout Garden crowd’s attention shifted toward 7-foot-5-inch center Tacko Fall, who was on the bench, the one place the fans did not want him to be.
Stevens’s wife and two children are in Indianapolis this weekend, partly to watch former Celtics assistant coach Micah Shrewsberry help coach Purdue against Butler, Stevens’s former team. Stevens said he spoke to them before the Pistons game, and his son Brady talked about the overall matchup before his daughter Kinsley shifted the focus.
“It’s time to give the people what they want,” she told her father, referring to Fall.
And Stevens was thinking about that as the familiar chants of ”We want Tacko” escalated late in the third quarter and swelled after that. He finally signaled for Fall midway through the fourth quarter, and the crowd erupted and stood for Fall’s entire 4-minute, 31-second stint.
He had 5 points, 2 rebounds and a block, and it was a nice finish to the evening for everyone but the Pistons.
“Everybody is happy for everybody’s success,” Fall said, “and that means a lot for me, that people want to see me do good.”