Skip to main content

The Boston Celtics suffered their second straight loss Friday night, but it’s clear it wasn’t their biggest loss. After opening the season with three straight victories, the Celtics have dropped two straight, falling to the Chicago Bulls and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Their most significant loss, however, has been center Robert Williams III.

Williams has been out with a knee injury, and he’s expected to miss significant time. His absence has shown, especially in Boston’s last two games.

The Boston Celtics have struggled without Robert Williams

Robert Williams III of the Boston Celtics celebrates in the final minutes of Game 4 of the playoffs against the Brooklyn Nets on April 25, 2022.
| Elsa/Getty Images.

Last year, the Celtics prided themselves on being the top defense in the NBA. Their success was based more on stopping opponents rather than outscoring them. That hasn’t been the case through the first five games this year.

Marcus Smart was the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year. Williams was also a prime candidate for the award but underwent surgery for a torn meniscus in late March. Those two guys led the defensive charge for the Celtics, and it’s been a much different story with Williams on the bench this year.

Rebounding and defense have been Boston’s biggest downfall this season, and it’s no coincidence the numbers have plummeted with Williams off the court.

According to, the Celtics led the league in defensive rating last year (106.2). This season, they are 26th (117.9). In their last three games, Boston’s opponent has hit at least 120 points.

Rebounding has also been an issue. A year ago, the Celtics finished fourth in defensive rebounds (35.5). Through the first two weeks of the season, Boston is 29th at 30.2.

The athletic Williams averaged 9.6 rebounds and 2.2 blocks last year. He’s without a game-changer when he’s on the court.

Jaylen Brown not concerned about the defensive issues just yet


How Did Robert Williams Get the ‘Time Lord’ Nickname?

Last year under first-year coach Ime Udoka, the Celtics thrived on the defensive side of the ball. The Celtics suspended Udoka for the season for a violation of team rules, replacing him with assistant coach Joe Mazzulla. So far, teams are scoring at will against the Celtics.

While the defense hasn’t played up to expectations, Jaylen Brown said he’s not too concerned at the moment.

“It’s on us,” Brown said after Friday night’s loss. “Those are all controllable things. We’re not concerned. We’ve done it before, and we can do it again.

“It’s just like re-locking in again, refocusing, and emphasizing the things that we should be prioritizing right now. Offensive rebounds, some of them were weird bounces, and some of them were not. We’ve got to be first to the glass to get the ball.

“We’ve had some different lineups out there, but we can’t let that be an excuse. We can’t let teams get second-chance opportunities. We let them get a lot of second-chance opportunities, especially late in the game.”

Brown might want to turn that level of concern up a notch. We’re only five games into the season, but having the old “we’ve done it before” mentality implies they can just flip a switch and turn things around like they did last year. That’s not the case. Everyone is gunning for the Celtics this year.

Have thoughts on this topic? Keep the conversation rolling in our comments section below.