After a Long Road Trip, the NBA-Best Boston Celtics Should Be Even Better Upon Return

The Boston Celtics weathered the storm on their six-game road trip. In grave danger of dropping their final three games on their trek, the Celtics rallied from a 13-point deficit with less than four minutes left against the LA Lakers to pull out an overtime win in the trip’s finale. The Celtics went 4-2 away from home.

Boston started their trip with the NBA’s best record and returned home with a league-best 22-7 mark. Look for them to get even better as starting center Robert Williams III is expected to make his season debut at home Friday against the Orlando Magic.

Robert Williams III expected to make his season debut for the Boston Celtics

Robert Williams III of the Boston Celtics looks on against the Brooklyn Nets in Game 1 of the 2021 NBA Playoffs on May 22, 2021.
| Steven Ryan/Getty Images.

On Friday, the Celtics play at TD Garden for the first time in two weeks when they host the Magic in the first of two straight home games against Orlando. According to ESPN, the Celtics are expected to be aided by the return of Williams, who hasn’t suited up for a game this season.

Williams underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in September. He originally tore his meniscus late in the regular season a year ago. He had surgery and returned to play in the postseason. His minutes were limited, and he never was at full strength.

Williams has been working out with the team and had been listed as day-to-day during the road trip. Speculation about his return intensified as the trip wore on.

“It’s a day-to-day process,” Williams said last Friday. “We checked off many of the boxes. Worked out today, feeling good. Might get some work in after this. We’ll see how I feel tomorrow.”

Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla never wavered from the day-to-day designation.

“Day to day,” Mazzulla said during the trip. “I mean day to day. The most important thing for Rob is that he’s comfortable with where he’s at from a physical conditioning standpoint and from a mindset standpoint.”

Williams should make the NBA’s best even better

With Boston having the best record in the NBA, there will be no need to rush Williams along. He will, however, give the Celtics a much-needed inside presence.

Al Horford has been in health and safety protocols and has missed time recently, leaving veteran Blake Griffin as the team’s starting center. Horford is expected back Friday, so he and Williams should give Boston’s frontcourt a significant lift.

With Williams manning the paint last year, the Celtics had the league’s top defense. An athletic center, Williams’ shot-blocking ability forces opponents to alter their shots and think twice about driving the lane. Williams averaged a career-high 2.2 blocks a year ago.

No slouch on offense, Williams is a lob threat who averaged 10 points while shooting 73.6% from the floor.

With Williams out, the Celtics have had the best offense in the league. Led by MVP candidate Jayson Tatum, the Celtics are No. 1 in offensive rating (118.1). Their defensive rating is eighth overall at 111.1. With Williams back in the mix, the Celtics should be an even more complete team than they already are.