Lou Williams might be a major problem for the Boston Celtics without Marcus Smart
The Boston Celtics are still not sure exactly when Marcus Smart is going to return to the lineup, and there defense has been up and down in his absence. They had that great game against the Warriors, but they were dismantled by the Raptors and the Cavaliers. Smart is an integral part of everything they want to do on defense, and he is as important as anyone with individual matchups.
Against the Los Angeles Clippers, the most important part of his impact would have been against Lou Williams. He has proven to be one of the most unstoppable scorers when he gets going this season, and the Celtics do not have another individual they can trust to contain him for the game.
On top of everything, the fact that Smart and Williams both come off the bench makes it even more important. The Celtics do not want to change too much to try and get Jaylen Brown on Williams, and Terry Rozier has not proven to be good enough on that end to take on that responsibility.
With Blake Griffin gone, Williams is the most important assignment of the game. With Smart, the Celtics have the luxury of knowing they have a player that they can trust at all times. Without Smart, the Celtics will have to try and throw different looks at him, and chances are not all of them are going to work.
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It will be interesting to see if some of the versatile bigs on the second unit have to try and stay with him on the outside. Brown will spend as much time as he can on him, but there is also a good chance the rookie Jayson Tatum will get his chance. Even Kyrie Irving should expect to spend some time on him, because Stevens is going to have to try and figure out as many different options as he can.
Williams is the one player that will force the Celtics to adjust, and Smart is the only player that could neutralize that. The Celtics want to be as comfortable as possible with their lineups, and do not want to have to be too creative. If Smart was there, they would have a lot more control over the kind of lineups they need to use. Without him, Williams will be dictating a lot of what the Celtics are able to do, and that is an immediate disadvantage,
When you incorporate how important it is for the Celtics to play the way they want to, in order to neutralize DeAndre Jordan, not having Smart for this game could truly transform it. If the Celtics are not able to find their top lineups because of Williams, then they will also be making it easier for Jordan to destroy the game, because they only have so many options to deal with that kind of size.
The Celtics certainly have the defense to make it work against Williams, but there is a lot of uncertainty, and it gets much harder with Smart out of the lineup. With the way the Celtics have been playing, they cannot afford to have Williams be comfortable and still expect to win.
Williams is more than capable of destroying a game the way the Celtics have been playing lately, and their defense will fall apart if they are not able to handle him. The defensive depth has come through in the past, but has not been during this recent stretch. There are options that have the potential to work, but that cannot be taken for granted right now.
Williams is the one player that can really destroy this game for the Celtics, so if they can figure out how to slow him down without Smart, they should be able to enter the All Star break on a positive note.