MIAMI — Robert Williams returned to action Monday night after a one-game knee-related absence in Game 3, his fifth miss in the last eight games, and the difference was immediate.
With Williams in the paint, the heads of Heat players go on a swivel, and the fact they shot 29 percent in the Celtics’ Game 4 win was very much a credit to his defensive presence.
As usual, the Celtics listed Williams as questionable for Game 5 Wednesday night in Miami, and the drill is the same. The center is dealing with a bone bruise in his surgically-repaired left knee, and there’s been recurring swelling and soreness. But as of Tuesday, the evaluation continued.
“He copes with it well in the game last night. You never know until the next day or two,” said Ime Udoka “A lot of times the second day, which is obviously game day, where he has some of the pain. But he only played 18 and a half (minutes). But he played 19 in Game 2, so we truly don’t know until today when he lets us know how he feels, tomorrow as well. With swelling and pain it’s literally day to day. Hopeful for the best, but never know how his body responds to it.”
Williams had 12 points and nine rebounds in his 19-minute stint in Game 4.
“Obviously a great feeling being out there, being back with my guys. The knee felt great, feels good. Obviously just take a look at it tomorrow and see how it’s feeling recovery-wise,” he said. “It’s just swelling a little bit, stiffening up on me a little. Taking it day by day, spending a lot of time with the trainers, obviously, throwing a lot of scenarios at it, see how it responds.
“We usually just wait until the next day to see if it’s swelling or anything. Like I said, though, coming out of this game, no doubts in my head. I feel good for it. But like I said, we’ll keep doing everything we can to make sure I get out there.”
In addition to Williams, Marcus Smart was also listed as questionable after missing Game 4 with a right ankle sprain. The designation is actually an upgrade, considering that Smart’s last designation was “out.”
Battle of wits
Udoka has been locked in a chess match with one of the league’s great masters – friend and fellow Portland, OR native Erik Spoelstra – in this series.
“Spo is a coach that you have to be prepared for a lot of things,” said Udoka. “The first part is the physicality, toughness, a well-coached team that’s not going to beat themselves, and so you kind of have to go out there and try to take it even more so and hope they’re going to make mistakes. And so, we want to be aggressive on both sides of the ball and he prepares this team extremely well for that. That’s what he’s built over all these years in Miami.
“That’s the first piece, but at the same time, he’ll do a lot of stuff; throw a lot of zones out there, presses, different things to get you off-kilter and you have to prepare for those things. So it’s a good back and forth. They’re a versatile team defensively that can do some different things and you have to be prepared for a bunch of different coverages.”
The series has been marked by some big swings, but such is the nature of the 3-pointer era,
“I would say a big part of it is the scoring nowadays. Teams go on crazy runs. Defense, depending on the team, is more of a luxury at times,” said Udoka. “It’s not always a premium with every team, so a lot of times there’s these shootouts and they can get ugly pretty quickly. But with that being the NBA, long games, guys know they have a chance to get back in it.
“And so you’ve seen a lot of those so far. We try to pride ourselves on being consistent on the defensive end, which always gives us a chance. But like I said, we’ve been having these bad quarters in this series where the lead is stretched and then we fight our way back into it. But I would attribute it to that, more so the 3-point shooting, the streaks that people go on and kind of the progression of the game offensively for why you’re seeing some of these big leads and these big blowouts.”
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