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Celtics’ Robert Williams out 4-6 weeks following knee surgery

Michael Holley believes the Boston Celtics are not going to be able to compete with the stacked teams in the Eastern Conference without lockdown defender Robert Williams.

So long as Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are healthy, the Celtics will be a good defensive team and a dangerous playoff opponent.

But without Robert Williams — their defensive anchor at center — the Celtics are not coming out of the East.

Williams had his knee surgery and will be out 4-6 weeks, a story first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, but soon after confirmed by the Celtics.

That timeline has Williams possibly back late in the second round or during the Eastern Conference Finals. If Boston is still playing at that point.

Williams may be out but gave a social media thumbs up after the surgery.

The Celtics will have a hard time replacing the rim protection and switchability on defense that Williams brings. Daniel Theis will play a more prominent role and is solid on both ends of the court, but he is not as dynamic an athlete as Williams.

The numbers are concerning. Boston’s starting five — Smart, Tatum, Brown, Al Horford, and Williams — has a defensive rating of 94.8, but remove Williams and replace him with anyone else, and the defensive rating jumps to 114.1. For a couple of games now, coach Ime Udoka has been experimenting with lineups, such as slotting Derrick White next to Smart, with Tatum and Brown, then one center, a smaller and more offensive lineup. That could all work in certain matchups.

The matchups are impossible to predict, with both the top and bottom of the East tightly bunched. Boston might still match up well with Brooklyn without Williams, but they would struggle to match up with the Bucks. It just depends on how the Eastern Conference standings shake out over the final week and a half.

And when Williams can get back on the court.