The emergence of high-flying center Robert Williams has been nothing short of incredible for the Boston Celtics, but the reality is that sometimes they really miss an enforcer like Tristan Thompson in the middle.
Thompson was back in the lineup against the New York Knicks on Wednesday and he undoubtedly helped Boston earn a 101-99 victory. It was Thompson’s first game since March 14 after landing in the league’s COVID-19 protocols. He worked his way back slowly over the last week or so.
“It was great to have him back. We missed him a lot,” Jayson Tatum said on a postgame video conference. “Just his presence out there, just how physical he is. It was great to have him back.”
Thompson returned to score seven points with eight rebounds, but his impact went far beyond the box score against the physical Knicks. And it was quite a change of pace from Tuesday’s loss against Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers, who essentially turned Williams into a doormat.
Thompson, of note, was a plus-24 in 22 minutes while Williams was a minus-21. The two big men bring two different aspects to the Celtics, which is good, but Wednesday’s matchup best suited Thompson.
“He added to the fight, to the physicality,” Jaylen Brown said on a postgame video conference. “We knew today was going to be a fight. We knew they’re physical. We didn’t want to lose the fight. We had to win the fight tonight and Tristan led us in that department.”
Marcus Smart added: “He brings that energy. He really controls the boards for us and he does a really good job at it. He does a really good job at getting us extra possessions. He does a really good job at protecting us when we make mistakes on that defensive end. And on the offensive end he does a really good job getting us those extra shots, finding guys and doing what he does best. So, it’s great to have a guy like Tristan.”
Thompson’s availability certainly should help the Celtics as they look to improve their .500 record and make a push to make the playoffs. First and foremost, though, are the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday.