4/22/22 by Jackson Tolliver
The Boston Celtics currently hold a two game lead over their first round opponents, the Brooklyn Nets. In a series that has featured two of the best playoff games so far, it looks like there will be more key developments to watch as each team has a significant player returning from injury.
For the Celtics, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports that center Robert Williams III will return in tomorrow’s game three in Brooklyn. Williams has been out since the end of March when he received surgery for a partially torn meniscus. The initial recovery timetable was 4-6 weeks, and it now looks like he will be back at the earlier end of that prognosis. Wojnarowski reported that Williams will likely be on a minutes restriction for tomorrow’s game, but then will look to take on a heavier load in game four.
For the Nets, former Philadelphia 76er Ben Simmons will look to make his return in game four from a herniated disk in his back. Simmons has not played an NBA game since the 76ers lost against the Hawks last season in game seven. The process that followed was one of the stories of the season, as Simmons and the 76ers developed serious tension, and it became increasingly clear that he would most likely never play in a Philadelphia uniform again. He was dealt to the Nets at the trade deadline in return for James Harden but has yet to make his Brooklyn debut.
The return of both of these players provides a significant boost on the defensive side for each team. Williams was second in the NBA this year in blocks per game with 2.2 and has become a crucial aspect of the Celtics’ defense. Simmons was a unanimous selection to the All-NBA Defensive first team last year, and his presence will bolster a Brooklyn defense that has struggled to guard Tatum and Brown down the stretch.
While it will be interesting to see what the return of these players will offer, the series could, in essence, be over before we see them make a big impact. No NBA team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in the playoffs, and if the Celtics win tomorrow night, that is exactly what the Nets will be facing. There also will most likely be growing pains for the Nets as they try to integrate Simmons, as he is not familiar with the Nets’ system in game action.
Despite the fact that the Nets’ season could be over, this team should be expected to make a deeper postseason run next year, assuming luck is more on their side. As for the Celtics, Williams returning only gives the fans more hope that the 18th championship banner is in sight.