Celtics vs. Spurs takeaways: Robert Williams dominates in 121-116 win

Celtics vs. Spurs takeaways: Robert Williams dominates in 121-116 win

The Boston Celtics wrapped up their four-game road trip with a hard-fought 121-116 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday night.

The Celtics had an 11-point lead early in the fourth quarter and looked poised to run away with the win. But the Spurs deserve a lot of credit for fighting back and tying the game at 116-116 with 37.1 seconds left in the fourth quarter. In the end, the Celtics’ top-tier talent, most notably Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, made the difference. C’s center Robert Williams also dominated on both ends with a double-double and elite defense.

The win keeps the Celtics atop the NBA standings with a 28-12 record (13-7 on the road).

The Celtics will return home and host the Chicago Bulls on Monday night at TD Garden. Before we look ahead to that game, here are three highlights from C’s-Spurs.

Malcolm Brogdon provides a big boost off the bench

Brogdon gave the Celtics a much-needed spark off the bench with 23 points on an efficient 8-of-12 shooting, including 5-of-6 from 3-point range.

The veteran point guard also did an outstanding job running the offense in a playmaking role. He dished out seven assists with zero turnovers, including this beautiful pass to Jaylen Brown in the fourth quarter.

The Celtics’ bench struggled in late December, and Brogdon has reinvigorated that unit over the last two games. Here are his last three stat lines:

Jan. 3 at Thunder: 17 points, nine rebounds, three assists Jan. 5 at Mavericks: 15 points, three rebounds, four assists Jan. 7 at Spurs: 23 points, two rebounds, seven assists

Marcus Smart left in the third quarter and did not return because of a left knee contusion. If he misses any upcoming games, Brogdon could start at guard and play a lot more minutes.

Robert Williams does it all

Williams completed the stat sheet against the Spurs with 10 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, two steals, four blocks and zero turnovers.

Surprisingly, he made his biggest impact on defense. Williams’ first block was a spectacular moment. Not only did he jump up to hit a 3-pointer, he chased down the ball, ran the length of the floor and laid it up to give the Celtics a 13-point lead.

His block near the end of the third quarter led to an and-1 by Jayson Tatum on the other end of the floor.

Williams also put the Celtics up 116-113 with 48.1 seconds left in the fourth quarter on a layup by Derrick White.

The 24-year-old center has now played nine games since returning from a knee injury and has come off the bench each time. It’s very encouraging for the Celtics that Williams has moved well and made a strong impact on both ends of the court despite playing just 19.1 minutes per game. Its elite defense on the perimeter and in the paint makes Boston a much tougher team to beat.

Tatum and Brown once again lead the offense

The Celtics star duo once again led the way offensively with another monster performance.

Tatum led all players with 34 points on 13-of-26 shooting (5-of-10 from 3-point range). It was his 20th 30-plus point game this season. Tatum’s jumper from the baseline put the Celtics up 118-116 with 33.1 seconds left. It was the key hit in the game.

Brown scored 29 points on 12-of-26 shooting with four rebounds, two assists, two blocks and two steals.

The Celtics didn’t play their best game, especially in the second half. Spurs were without their top four scorers and still had a chance to win in the end. The C’s prevailed because their superstar duo put up a combined 63 points and made clutch plays in the fourth quarter.

It was another example of why Tatum and Brown both deserve to be selected to the 2023 NBA All-Star Game.

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