Robert Williams, on the eve of an NBA Finals playoff game, was asked about his team’s legacy, as opposed to the 17 Celtics teams that came before him to win the title.
“As far as legacy goes, I’m just trying to win the next game,” the Celtics center said. “Possession by possession, that’s the most important thing for us right now.”
Possession-by-possession, for back-to-back games, was the challenge facing the Celtics heading into Game 6 on Thursday night.
The Garden crowd did their job throughout, annoying the Warriors to a hugely motivating degree.
The Celtics had an additional challenge, preventing Golden State from becoming only the second opponent in franchise history to win a title at the garden level. The Lakers achieved this feat in 1985.
“It’s great to be back home. It’s the last home game of the season,” said Jayson Tatum. “I can’t wait to be in front of the crowd, knowing they’ll be behind us and give us that extra boost, because they’ve had my whole career. I am extremely excited to see them tomorrow. It’s going to be extremely noisy in here. It’s gonna be fun. It’s going to be a great atmosphere. I can not wait to be there.
And on Thursday night, the message from the crowd was pretty simple.
“When you’re in Boston, when you come to Boston, it’s the expectation,” Al Horford said of the Championships. “It’s the norm. I know that obviously for many years we were never at this point. But it’s something that’s already in there. As soon as you put on this uniform, it is something that is expected. We are aware of this. We want to be part of this story, there is no doubt.
With most players in the Celtics realm admitting to being fatigued during their Game 5 loss, Ime Udoka entered Game 6 looking for a way to manage the minutes without diluting the product on the floor.
“You would like to keep them fresh obviously for the fourth quarter, and a big part of that was the success we had in the third with this group, and played them a little longer and get back in the game and take the lead. there, “said the Celtics coach. “Then the production on the bench was not the same. As we started the fourth badly, we got our guys back faster than we would like. we’re not expecting a lack of production like this again on the bench, so keep the guys in their natural rotation, cut their minutes and they’ll be fresh for last.
As with everything else in this league, there is a science behind the decisions.
“We have something we like to look at in terms of rotation with the coaching staff,” Udoka said. “Obviously we have the timeouts to discuss, who’s been in certain stretches or not and who’s playing well in which rotations. We have two or three that we go through every day, and we kind of review them, and then we obviously have to have a sense of the game as well and so depending on how the lineups are playing and the rotations and the games we can kind of adjust that but we have a few different scenarios that we’re looking at but we have to have the natural feel of the game, how it plays out.
The Labors of the Time Lord
As Udoka discovered, Robert Williams actually responded well to a measured approach to playing time and his sore left knee.
“It’s pretty easy to see when he’s feeling good and he’s got some bounce in his step and if he’s tweaked something or limps a bit,” Udoka said. “It’s pretty easy to see. For him, it’s not a question of tiny restrictions, it’s just what we are aware of and not having him run any longer. For him, if he looks and feels good and this unit is playing well, he has no problem staying there. Nothing that needs to be done until a few minutes, but we want to have it with some rotations, and that breaks up its rotations more in minutes and we can get it in and out on faster stretches instead of running more long nine or those of 10 minutes.