Celtics fans looking for villains or scapegoats found one in Grant Williams after a stunning Game 2 home loss in the Eastern Conference Finals put their season in peril. Williams had enraged green fingers pointing at him after he “poked the bear” by talking smack in the 4th quarter to the Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler, a move that looked in retrospect to be unwise.
Butler responded by scoring nine of his 27 points after he and Williams first jawed and butted heads. Notably, it was part of a 24-9 game-ending run that gave Miami a 2-0 lead headed back home.
Celtics stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were both subpar performers in the 4th quarter, but Williams’ confrontation with Butler was so dramatic that some fans thought that was the trigger for the loss. [Note to those fans: Butler plays with that kind of passion anyway, though he did admit after the game that the Williams chatter gave him “fuel.”]
Williams had the perfect response to accusations that he cost the team a win. Afterwards he said he realized he’d “poked the bear” and lost. But he refused to do anything but own it, saying he was “not going to run away from it” and challenging his whole team to rise up and come back with a “better mentality.”
"I respect him as a motherf**** player"— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) May 20, 2023
Grant Williams gives the truth about his beef with Jimmy Butler pic.twitter.com/fmSOgcnsY8
“I think he said something and I just responded,” Williams said. “I’m a competitor, and I’m going to battle. He got the best of me tonight, and at the end of the day, it’s out of respect, because I’m not going to run away from it. My mom always taught me, and my dad as well, you get your a– kicked and you don’t come back home until you come battle again. You either come back before you die or you come back and get a win, and I’m not willing to die in this finals. I’m ready to f—ing get a win. I’m ready to come back and come into Game 3 with a better mentality, and I know this team is as well.”
Butler said it was all about good competition, and the battle pushed the “will that I have to win.” Butler added about Williams: “I do respect him, I do.”
Jimmy Butler says he's probably not the best person for Grant Williams to get chippy with— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) May 20, 2023
He says the altercation with Williams fueled his fourth quarter burst pic.twitter.com/KownTdQohC