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Forsberg: Grant Williams needs to let his play do the talking

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BOSTON -- At various points during Game 2 of the NBA Finals, Grant Williams watched Draymond Green 1) Sled-drive him to the floor and splash on top; 2) Cram his hand near Williams' face then jab his elbow into his chest during a dead-ball stoppage; and 3) Bark at him, "You want to be me," while Green spewed trash talk while shooting free throws.

As tempting as it might be to the Celtics to allow Williams to engage in Green’s theatrics, maybe with the hope that the gabby Williams could get under Green’s skin much in the way he did to Boston in Game 2, it seems like a no-win chore.

What the Celtics really need is for Williams to quiet Green by being the sort of impact presence he’s been over the first three rounds of the NBA playoffs.

Ime Udoka had a great message for his team about Draymond's antics

Williams has quietly (and that’s rare for him!) been a key contributor for much of Boston’s playoff run. He hounded Kevin Durant throughout a Round 1 sweep of the Nets then took the same focus to Milwaukee and helped wear down Giannis Antetokounmpo. In Game 7 of that second-round series against the defending champs, Williams made seven 3-pointers as part of a 27-point outing to spark Boston’s clinching win.

Williams had encouraging moments during the Miami series and gamely took on the challenge of defending high school rival Bam Adebayo. Williams’ impact has been a bit more inconsistent, since Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, however, most notably with him shooting 31.3 percent on 3s (after posting a mark of 43.1 percent on all playoff triples before that point).

Green pulled Williams into the headlines after Golden State’s Game 2 victory in San Francisco. Despite gushing about Green being one of his NBA idols, Williams found himself catching heat from Green, who suggested Williams started their Game 2 trash talk.

There’s little sense litigating who actually ignited the jawing. These two rarely shut up long enough to let anyone get in the first word. But Williams needs to use the Game 2 flareups as motivation to get back to being a game-changing presence.

"For me, I'm able to give it back," Williams told NBC Sports Boston after Tuesday's workout. "For me, at the end of the day, I'm a guy that's gonna be just as competitive and we're keeping it on the court, nothing that ever excels past that. So I enjoy it, it makes the game even more fun for me because sometimes the game can be a little relaxed.

"Now [Green’s trash-talking] brings that energy, brings the edge. The same with [Milwaukee’s] Bobby Portis. You didn’t see the clips of it, but Bobby was saying just as much. So, for me, it's just a matter of playing that game and understanding exactly who I am, what I like to do."

If Robert Williams III continues to be hindered by a sore left knee -- and he did little more than agility drills and free throws during the portion of practice open to reporters on Tuesday -- then it’s even more imperative that Grant Williams find a way to impact play.

Maybe that’s hounding Green on the defensive end and making him work to facilitate for Golden State’s shooters. Maybe that’s being a switchable body able to defend bigger wings like Klay Thompson and Otto Porter Jr. And there will be times when the versatile Williams will have to chase Steph Curry around the perimeter.

But defense is Williams’ most consistent asset and it needs to be at the forefront as this series plays out.

Williams famously hounded Durant after an in-game timeout then, later, during an in-game timeout, an after-the-whistle 3-pointer. He took on the challenge of guarding Antetokounmpo whenever asked against Milwaukee and routinely drew elbows to the face for is troubles. Williams’ individual defensive numbers weren’t as stellar against Adebayo but he logged important minutes with Williams III not operating at 100 percent.

Williams needs to be ready to knock down corner 3-point shots, especially when he’s on the court with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown when they’re drawing extra defensive attention. But Williams knows half the battle for the Celtics moving forward is simply valuing the basketball.

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"Take care of the ball. That's the No. 1 thing," said Williams. "Taking care of the ball, eliminating those turnovers, especially open-court turnovers. As well as just establishing a physical presence. That's probably the two biggest things."

Depending on Williams III’s health, the Celtics could consider more single-big lineups in this series. Al Horford owns a net rating of +15.8 in 110 minutes without another big on the floor this postseason. Williams has rarely reprised his Bubble-like role of playing single big with only 2 minutes this postseason without Horford, Williams III, or Theis alongside.

If Udoka wants to stick with double bigs, the Grant Williams/Horford duo has a net rating of +10.6 in 362 minutes together (and has been Boston’s most frequent frontcourt this postseason).

Regardless of how he’s deployed, the Celtics simply need a bit more from Williams. He needs to find a way to impact this series the way he did throughout the early rounds.

As entertaining as it would be to watch him try to out-Draymond Draymond Green, it might be easier for Williams to let his play do the talking.