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Report: Celtics center Robert Williams to have surgery on torn meniscus, out at least several weeks

Celtics center Robert Williams

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - MARCH 23: Robert Williams III #44 of the Boston Celtics rebounds during the second quarter of the game against the Utah Jazz at TD Garden on March 23, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)

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The Celtics moved atop the Eastern Conference standings by crushing the Timberwolves yesterday.

But the victory looks pyrrhic now.

Robert Williams left the game with a left-knee injury that has turned out to be quite serious.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Before the Celtics game against the Raptors Monday, coach Ime Udoka confirmed that Williams would have surgery, but said a timeline for his return would depend on the details of the surgery and would be announced after it was done.

The playoffs begin in nearly in three weeks. In an unusually deep Eastern Conference, the Celtics – even if they hold onto a high seed – can’t count on an easy first-round matchup to buy time for Williams to return.

Williams has been essential to Boston’s elite defense. His ability to both protect the rim and defend in space has really stifled opponents. He also contributes positively offensively with his above-the-rim finishing, rebounding and a dash of playmaking on short rolls.

The Celtics when playing with their other four starters (Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford) and…:

  • Williams: +25 points per 100 possessions
  • Someone else: -11 points per 100 possessions

That latter sample includes just 72 minutes with a fifth player still on the roster (Grant Williams, Payton Pritchard, Derrick White). But that’s also the point. Boston lacks chemistry with those other combinations.

Horford, Williams and Daniel Theis could all play more at center. The Celtics could also go smaller more frequently.

They have limited time to determine what works – an especially unfortunate predicament because they had found a setup that had been working so well.