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Three Things to Know: Celtics loss of Williams hurts more than one to Raptors

Minnesota Timberwolves Vs Boston Celtics At TD Garden

Boston - March 27: Four Timberwolves can only watch as the Celtics Robert Williams (44) slams home two first quarter points. The Boston Celtics hosted the Minnesota Timberwolves in a regular season NBA basketball game at the TD Garden in Boston on March 27, 2022. (Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Boston Globe via Getty Images

Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA great.

1) Celtic loss of Robert Williams hurts more than one to Raptors

Boston was not going to sweat losing to Toronto Monday — you could tell because Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Al Horford all stayed home on the second night of a back-to-back (all three are expected to play in a showdown with the Heat Wednesday) — but the Celtics reserves played well and made the Raptors sweat out an overtime win.

However, it’s not the loss to Toronto that has Boston faithful sweating heading into the playoffs — defensive anchor center Robert Williams has a torn meniscus and likely will undergo surgery.

The Celtics will not put a timeline on his return — it depends on the tear and what is done in surgery — but usually, the early timeline is still about 4-6 weeks. Williams is certainly out for the remainder of the regular season. The questions are, when can he come back in the playoffs, and can the Celtics can stay alive long enough for Williams to return and make an impact?

Williams has been an All-Defensive Team level player this season and the Celtics will have a hard time replacing what he brings in the paint.

Put in numbers, the Celtics preferred starting five — Marcus Smart, Tatum, Brown, Al Horford, and Williams — has a defensive rating of 94.8, giving up less than a point per possession this season (stats via Cleaning the Glass, which filters out garbage time). Remove Williams from that group and replace him with anyone else, and the defensive rating jumps to 114.1. So much of Boston’s success is based on its defense, which is not the same without Williams in the paint.

As for the game Monday night, Pascal Siakam has quietly put together an All-NBA level season — not sure he makes it, but he has to be considered at the forward spot — and he was the best player on the floor, dropping 40.

The Raptors still needed overtime to get the 115-102 win over the Celtics reserves, who played well. Not the most impressive win but it moves the Raptors into a tie with the Bulls for the No. 5 seed in the East (Chicago continued to stumble and lost to the Knicks on Monday). Chicago and Cleveland are both one game ahead of Cleveland (who also won Monday) in the race for the 5/6/7 seed in the East and avoiding the play-in.

2) It wasn’t just Williams, other injuries all over the league Monday

Robert Williams’ injury was just the first of a rash of them announced — or that just happened — on Monday.

Most impactful could be the Cavaliers’ Evan Mobley. The frontrunner for Rookie of the year for most of the season (and likely still), plus a defensive anchor for the Cavs, sprained his left ankle and did not return to the team’s win Monday. X-rays were negative, according to reports, but there is no word yet on the severity or how long he will be out. With Jarrett Allen already out with a fractured middle finger left hand, the strong defensive backline of the Cavaliers is sidelined, with the play-in just a couple of weeks away.

The Cavaliers’ bad injury news doesn’t stop there. Dean Wade, who was a starting forward with the team until he injured his knee, had surgery on the meniscus in his right knee and is out for the rest of this season, the team announced.

The Detroit Pistons have lost forward Jerami Grant out for the rest of the season, the team announced. Grant has one more year on his contract at just shy of $21 million next season, but he wants an extension (the max would be four years, $112 million) and he wants to be in a place where he is a primary offensive option. That may not be Detroit, teams have interest in him, including Portland.

Oklahoma City point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is out the remainder of the season due to an ankle injury, the team announced. Gilgeous-Alexander has sat out three of the team’s last four games due to a sore ankle, and coach Mark Daigneault said they didn’t see a reason to bring him back with so few games left in the season.

The Pacers made it official and said center Myles Turner would be out for the rest of the season. He has been out since Jan. 14 with a foot injury, but he will love playing with Tyrese Haliburton next season.

3) Grizzlies beat Warriors to take firm grip on No. 2 seed in West

It was a longshot Golden State was going to suddenly make a run without Stephen Curry and catch Memphis for the No. 2 seed in the West, but that dream all but officially died on Monday night when the Grizzlies — without Ja Morant — easily handled the Warriors, 123-95.

The Grizzlies are a ridiculous 17-2 with Morant out. The reason is guys like De’Anthony Melton keep stepping up — he threw down a dunk of the year candidate on Kevon Looney.

The Warriors need to look over their shoulders. Golden State is just two games up on surging Dallas for the No. 3 seed in the West, the Warriors need to find some wins to hold off falling further down the standings.

Highlight of the Night: Rockets had a shot to force OT… oh that hurts

It’s understandable if you chose not to watch the Spurs vs. Rockets, but you need to see this ending. Kenyon Martin Jr. had a good look to send this game to overtime and… the basketball gods are cruel sometimes.

With that win, the Spurs are just half-a-game back of the Lakers for the No. 10 seed and final play-in spot in the West, and San Antonio has the tiebreaker with LA.

Yesterday’s scores:

Nuggets 113, Hornets 109
Cavaliers 107, Magic 101
Hawks 132, Pacers 123
Heat 123, Kings 100
Knicks 109, Bulls 104
Raptors 115, Celtics 102
Spurs 123, Rockets 120
Grizzlies 123, Warriors 95
Thunder 134, Trail Blazers 131 (OT)