Mazzulla explains why Grant Williams didn’t play in Celtics-Heat Game 1 originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The Boston Celtics needed something to turn the tide in the third quarter of Game 1 against the Miami Heat on Wednesday night and it never came.
Miami outscored Boston 46-25 in the quarter and eventually won 123-116 to take a 1-0 series lead in the 2023 Eastern Conference Finals.
Heat star Jimmy Butler led all scorers with 35 points on 12-for-25 shooting. He also made 9-of-10 free throw attempts. Similar to last season’s conference finals matchup, Butler got pretty much any shot he wanted against the Celtics defense. Most everyone the Celtics threw at him — including Malcolm Brogdon, Derrick White and Payton Pritchard — couldn’t slow down the veteran forward.
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One player the Celtics didn’t use against Butler was Grant Williams. In fact, Williams didn’t play a single minute in the series opener.
It was a strange decision, to say the least, considering Williams is a good 3-point shooter and has the physicality to contend with Butler on defense. Williams guarded Butler on lots of possessions during the three regular season meetings between the Celtics and Heat, so it’s not an unfamiliar assignment for him.
Why no Williams in Game 1?
“We have a plan to use the depth that we need in order to give us the lineups that we think can really help us,” Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla said Thursday. “Obviously, in the playoffs with minutes expanding, you look to play seven or eight guys, which we’ve kinda done throughout.
“I thought Payton gave us an opportunity with his shooting, with his playmaking, his pick and roll defense. Like I’ve said before, Grant is always going to be ready. And we’ve built a lot of versatility and depth in our lineup where we can go a lot of different ways. We trust that anybody that we call on will be ready.”
Williams averaged 30.4 minutes per game during the conference finals against the Heat last season. In Game 2, he scored 19 points on 5-for-7 shooting. He also hit seven of his eight free throw attempts. The Celtics outscored the Heat by 37 points while Williams was on the floor, and they evened the series with a 127-102 victory.
Giving Williams a similar role in Friday night’s Game 2 would be a wise move by Mazzulla ahead of this pivotal matchup.