Entering his team’s latest showdown with the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics big man Robert Williams III was rolling. For fans in Beantown, he has been one of the few bright spots during what has largely been a dismal 2020-21 season. And he has been better than ever recently.
However, few forces in the NBA are as adept at bringing rolling big men to screeching halts as Sixers star Joel Embiid.
So, when the two went toe to toe on Tuesday night, the player who Celtics fans have affectionately dubbed “Timelord” watched his time on the court dwindle to almost nothing as he struggled to contain the MVP candidate.
Consequently, the Sixers beat Boston at the Garden, 106-96.
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Back To Reality, Ope There Goes Gravity
At the NBA trade deadline, the Celtics made what some considered a surprising move to deal starting center Daniel Theis to the Chicago Bulls. Although Boston brought back Moe Wagner and Luke Kornet in the three-team trade, it was a huge development for Williams, who would receive a chance to start and a bump in minutes.
In response, the 23-year-old took the opportunity and ran with it.
Williams was dynamite in his first start, logging seven points, nine rebounds, six assists, five blocks and two steals in a big win over the Milwaukee Bucks. And the good times have continued to roll.
On Friday, he became just the third center in league history to post a 20-8-8 game while making 100 percent of his field goal attempts. He followed that up by dropping 16 and eight in the Celtics’ previous contest on Sunday.
But Embiid just ended all that.
In just his second game back from injury, the four-time All-Star scored a game-high 35 points on 19 shot attempts to pace Philly to the win. He spent most of the night getting buckets on the Celtics’ big men. And when he wasn’t doing that, he was getting fouled by them — especially in Williams’ case.
Embiid finished the night with 20 free throw attempts, making 16 of them. It was the second time this season he had attempted as many foul shots and the 19th time he made 10 or more of them, which leads the league.
Meanwhile, Williams was limited to just 14 minutes on the court as he battled foul trouble. He picked up his disqualifying foul with more than nine minutes still remaining in the contest.
As a result, his line looked particularly pedestrian given his recent success — four points, nine rebounds, just one block, no steals, three turnovers and six fouls.
A Historic Sweep
With the win, the Sixers officially swept the season series with the Celtics 3-nil. Given the current state of both teams, the sweep isn’t exactly a surprising development. However, in a historical context, it was a major milestone for the club.
It was the first time since the 2000-01 season that Philly had swept the rival Cs and just the fourth time overall.
“I didn’t know that,” Sixers coach Doc Rivers said when asked about the historic sweep, via The Philadelphia Inquirer.
“This is one of the teams … whether we swept them or not, the last three years they’ve been in the top of the East. So it’s great that we did it. It gives us a lot of confidence.”
However, Rivers maintained that this game was just one of many in a process his franchise hopes will bring in the big hardware.
“Having said that, we’re not finished yet. I would say that. We still have work to do.”