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Heading into the NBA Playoffs, the Boston Celtics were rolling. They had just completed one of the most impressive mid-season turnarounds in league history and climbed all the way up to the second seed in the Eastern Conference. However, there was one issue looming over their heads: the injury to Robert Williams.
The third-year big man was having a breakout season as an integral part of Ime Udoka’s defensive system. He even received some votes for Defensive Player of the Year, despite his injury, an award that his teammate, Marcus Smart, ended up winning. Without Williams in the starting lineup, Boston has been forced to adjust.
In turn, Udoka placed Daniel Theis in the starting lineup alongside Al Horford. Both players are former Celtics who returned this year via trade, and the additions of both of them look more important than ever since Williams went down. Celtics President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens traded Kemba Walker and a first-round pick for Horford last offseason and added Theis at the trade deadline in exchange for Dennis Schroder, Enes Freedom, and Bruno Fernando.
Horford and Theis have started both of the Celtics’ playoff games so far, and despite some sideways comments from Brooklyn Nets forward Bruce Brown, they’ve held their own. After Boston’s win over Brooklyn in Game 2, Charles Barkley of Inside the NBA even had some kind words for Theis.
Barkley Gives Theis His Flowers
When the Inside the NBA crew was reviewing the Celtics vs. Nets game, they watched a recap of the performance. During that recap, Theis’ game-tying mid-range jumper came across the big screen. As he nailed the middy, Barkley made sure to throw a compliment his way:
“I’ll tell you what, that Daniel Theis kid, he may not put up great stats, but he can play on my team anytime.”
It was just a passing moment, but words like that show the true value of Theis. As Barkley mentioned, Theis may not put up great stats, but he gives a team everything they need at the position. He’ll battle down low, make shots when he needs to, and do all the dirty work. That’s the role Theis played during his first stint in Boston and it’s the role he’s playing right now.
After Theis’ game-tying bucket with 3:13 left in the third quarter, the Nets would regain the lead. Brooklyn was up by five heading into the fourth, but that’s when the Celtics would surge ahead. With 7:49 left in the game, Boston took the lead, and they wouldn’t lose that lead for the rest of the game.
Theis’ Stats During Brooklyn Series
The German big man has started each of Boston’s first two playoff games, notching 25.5 minutes a night. He’s averaging 9.5 points and 6.0 rebounds while shooting 53.3 percent from the field. Theis has yet to nail a three-pointer, despite attempting four throughout the two games, but he’s played well in all other areas of the game.
Theis struggled in Game 1, only managing to score four points on 1-of-6 shooting from the field. But Game 2 is where Theis really picked things up. He scored 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting in over 30 minutes of game time. This included a nine-point first half. While that may not seem like much, it was crucial at the time, as both of Boston’s stars were struggling.
Ever since Williams went down, Theis has been filling the void very well. Down the stretch of the regular season, ever since Williams got hurt, Theis averaged 13.1 points and 5.9 rebounds in 28.4 minutes a night. If the Celtics want to progress in the playoffs, Theis will need to hold things down in Williams’ absence. And so far, he’s done a great job of doing that.