BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics were about as depleted as we’ve seen them in some time, with three core players - Jaylen Brown (ankle), Enes Kanter (hip bruise) and Jayson Tatum (groin) - out against Orlando.
The Celtics were going to need their best scorer (Walker) to be even more impactful when it came down to making shots.
And Walker did not disappoint, delivering the kind of performance that leaves no questions as to why he is going to the All-Star Game for the fourth consecutive season and second in a row as a starter.
Just as important, Walker’s impressive scoring night was enough to help an injury-riddled Celtics team escape with a 109-98 victory which was win No. 300 for Brad Stevens (only the fifth coach in franchise history to amass 300 or more wins coaching the Celtics).
We had the will to win tonight,” Walker, who had a game-high 37 points, told NBC Sports Boston’s Abby Chin following the game. “That’s how it has to be.”
Boston was playing without Jaylen Brown (ankle) and Jayson Tatum (groin), in addition to Enes Kanter (hip bruise) which put more of an emphasis on Walker leading the charge
“Everyone made plays but he kept us in it,” Stevens said of Walker.
With no Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum or Enes Kanter available, the Celtics absolutely had to have a big game scoring the ball from Gordon Hayward.
And he did not disappoint, finishing with his fifth double-double this season, with 22 points and a season-high 14 rebounds along with dishing out five assists.
While Hayward is often criticized for up-and-down-play, the days when he’s off his game are few and far between.
He’s impacting the game as a 3-point threat, a mid-range scorer and a finisher at the rim. The challenge for him and most NBA players, is doing what he does best more consistently.
Into the starting lineup due to injuries, Williams had a quietly strong game for Boston. Kemba Walker had a huge game, and Williams’ ability to deliver bone-crunching screens was a big part of that. To see the bodies bounce off of Williams when he sets a screen gives is important when it comes to freeing up teammates for scores. He would finish with nine points, four rebounds and three assists along with a steal and two blocked shots.
There’s a do-it-all style about Williams’ game that affords him the ability to impact the game in a multitude of ways with Friday’s victory for Boston being the latest example.
In the first half, he had a sequence in which he set a screen that freed up Kemba Walker for a shot, blocked a shot at the rim and drained a 3-pointer all within sixty seconds
It’s unclear how much longer Brown and Tatum will be out, but knowing that Williams will be ready certainly puts the mind of Brad Stevens at ease.
While his seven points and six rebounds were great to see, Green continues to prove that there’s quite a bit of untapped potential when it comes to his game. He has been electrifying offensively with his above-the-rim exploits.
But on Friday, it was Green’s defense that really stood out.
He was among the handful of Celtics that took turns trying to limit Terrence Ross who is one of those players who tends to light up Boston, home or away.
Green and company limited Ross to just eight points on 3-for-14 shooting.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Green had spent some extra time brushing up on matchups leading up to Friday’s game. That extra time paid off almost immediately for both him and Boston.
Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Pelicans, which begins Sunday at 5:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 6 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.