Celtics

Robert Williams puts together his best career game in C's win

Celtics

The Boston Celtics needed to take care of business against the Houston Rockets on Friday night at the TD Garden.

And that's exactly what they did.

Against one of the worst teams in the NBA, the Celtics pulled away in the second half and turned it into a big victory. They passed the ball very well and came alive in the second half, Evan Fournier especially.

After struggling in his first two and a half games in Boston, Fournier put on a show in the fourth quarter. He ended up making seven 3-point shots on the day and put up 23 points (20 of which came in the fourth). If he can continue to play like that off the bench, the C's will be in excellent shape.

Fournier wasn't the only Celtic to put together a great game. A couple of other players stand out and deserve to be recognized for their great efforts.

Here are three observations from the Celtics' 118-102 win over the Rockets.

1. Robert Williams played the best game of his career

Robert Williams was out against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night. The Celtics felt his absence when he couldn't play.

But against the Houston Rockets, Williams made his return. In the contest, he put up one of his best efforts of the season.

Williams was a beast for the Celtics on the floor. Per usual, he made an impact with his hustle plays on defense and set up some scoring opportunities as a result of blocks and fighting for loose balls. He rebounded very well and made numerous plays near the rim, including this dunk to set the tone for himself early.

 

As evident as Williams' impact was on the tape, it's even more evident in the box score when looking at how the C's did with and without him.

In the first half, Williams posted a plus-15 rating. When Williams was out of the game, the Rockets made their comeback push. When he came back into the game in the second quarter, the C's closed the half with a 9-0 run.

Overall, Williams posted the second-best plus/minus of anyone on the Celtics behind only Kemba Walker (plus-24). Meanwhile, Williams' backup, Luke Kornet, posted a negative rating in the game.

Center of attention

Robert Williams' plus/minus
+22
Luke Kornet's plus/minus
-1

Overall, Williams finished the game with 20 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists. Both the points and assists that Williams racked up were career-best marks.

It has become abundantly clear that the C's are significantly better with Williams on the floor. Until Tristan Thompson can return to provide a quality backup presence, the numbers at the center spot will likely continue to skew heavily in Williams' favor.

2. Ball movement is the biggest key to victory for the Celtics

You could say this about many NBA teams, but this is especially true of the C's.

When the Celtics are playing their best, they tend to be moving the ball around a lot to find the open shot. When they're at their worst, they play a lot of isolation basketball.

Against the Rockets, fans were treated to a lot of the former. The C's did a good job of moving the ball, especially early in the game. They found open shots and as a result, they had 10 assists in the first quarter on 12 made shots. That allowed them to build an early lead on the Rockets.

Save for a stretch in the second quarter where they played more iso-ball and let the Rockets get back into the game, the C's moved the ball very well. Overall, they posted a season-high 35 assists in the win, and that points to another trend.

In games where the Celtics have posted at least 25 assists, they have a pristine record. When they post fewer than 25? Not so much.

Passing fancy

Record (25+ AST)
15-3
Record (<25 AST)
9-22

The Celtics need to continue to pass the ball early and often during the rest of their homestand. They'll have a better chance to earn some much-needed wins over tougher competition if they're able to do that.

3. Marcus Smart impacted the game without shooting

Against the Rockets, Marcus Smart took just six total shots. However, his impact on both sides of the ball was massive and played a huge role in Boston's win.

Smart's passing was on point in Friday's victory. Instead of looking to shoot after a couple of lackluster games from behind the arc, Smart focused on finding open teammates and making the extra pass.

The result? Smart had 10 assists on the game and saw the court extremely well. That led to him making plays like this to energize the C's.

And on defense, Smart was stellar as well. He consistently played great defense against the Rockets, and he was especially active on that side of the ball in the first half.

 

Since returning from his injury, the Celtics are 4-2 in games where Smart takes seven or fewer shots. Smart should continue to focus on keeping the ball moving on offense, as the team plays better when he serves as a facilitator.

Can he still take open shots? Sure, but being a little less aggressive than he has been firing from deep should certainly help the Celtics perform more efficiently on offense.