The Bostons Celtics just received some terrible news with just seven games left in the regular season.
One night after claiming the East’s top seed, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and The Athletic’s Shams Charania have announced that starting center Robert Williams has suffered a meniscus tear. According to Woj, the injury will sideline Williams for at least several weeks, which officially puts his playoff availability into question.
ESPN Sources: Celtics C Robert Williams has suffered a meniscus tear in his left knee and will minimally miss several weeks. Further evaluation today will help provide a timetable. Boston moved into first-place Sunday, and Williams has been immense part of NBA’s best defense.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 28, 2022
Boston Celtics center Robert Williams is feared to have suffered a meniscus tear in his left knee, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. It could lead to an indefinite absence, which would be a tough loss for the Celtics as Williams is shining as the starting center this season.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) March 28, 2022
The injury couldn’t come at a worse time for a surging Celtics squad. Since January 20, they hold the NBA’s highest winning percentage with a record of 24-4. This dominant half of the season has come – in large part – due to the team’s historically strong defense, which Williams anchored.
The big man holds a +2.3 estimated defensive box plus-minus that ranks in the NBA’s 96th percentile, per Dunks & Threes, and his 6.9 block percentage ranks in the 98th percentile. Boston has allowed a league-low 42.1 points in the paint per game since mid-January thanks to Williams’ rim protection, and their defensive rating sits at an absurd 103.8 (the next closest is Miami at 109.2!).
While Boston has plenty of other talent to worry about, there is no question the Williams loss puts them in a vulnerable position with roughly two weeks to go until the postseason. If Williams can’t suit up, a first-round series becomes that much less scary for several East teams, including the Chicago Bulls.
Considering only a half-game separates the top-4 seeds in the East, there is a real chance the Bulls draw the Celtics in their first playoff series since the 2016-17 season. For a team that has experienced plenty of struggles with elite size this season, not having to deal with Williams could provide quite the boost.