Celtics' role players make statement vs. Sixers on NBA trade deadline eve

Celtics’ role players make pre-trade deadline statement vs. Sixers originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

BOSTON -- We’ve heard the talk for about a month now.

Yes, the Celtics have the NBA’s best record, but they could use more big man depth behind Al Horford and Robert Williams, or at least another capable wing to ease the burden on Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

On Wednesday night at TD Garden, the Celtics' role players had something to say about that talk.

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Already down three starters (Horford, Williams and Marcus Smart) and losing a fourth before halftime when Brown left the game with a facial injury, Boston got 82 points from the combination of Malcolm Brogdon, Derrick White, Blake Griffin, Grant Williams and Sam Hauser to rally to a 106-99 victory over the red-hot Philadelphia 76ers.

"Guys hear that stuff," Brogdon said after the game. "They hear the chatter, guys hear people talking, and it motivates them.

"I think it motivated a few guys tonight -- especially the big talk and the wing talk. Guys stepped up and really played their asses off tonight."

Exhibit A might be Grant Williams, whose name has surfaced in trade speculation amid a prolonged offensive slump. Williams broke out for 15 points, eight rebounds, five assists and a steal while hitting 4 of 6 3-pointers. He also played excellent defense on Joel Embiid, helping limit the Sixers star to 14 points over the final three quarters.

On the eve of Thursday's NBA trade deadline, Williams gave the front office a timely reminder of the value he can provide on both ends against an elite big man like Embiid.

"It was definitely a team effort, but I thought Grant -- his physicality was a real reason (why the Celtics were able to contain Embiid)," Griffin observed after the game. "It sets up our defense to be a little more successful."

Griffin made a statement in his own right by drilling 5 of 8 3-pointers, many on wide-open looks. Hauser followed suit by knocking down all four of his 3-point attempts. Even Payton Pritchard made an impact in his five minutes of action with some impressive late-game defense on Embiid.

Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens obviously shouldn't base his trade deadline strategy on one game. Brown's injury only furthers Boston's need for more wing depth, and Boston can't rely on getting 13 3-pointers from Griffin, Hauser and Williams every night.

But perhaps Wednesday night was a reminder that Boston doesn't need to swing for the fences to get to where it wants to go.

"We go into situations like this with the utmost trust and comfortability because of our depth and the character of our guys," head coach Joe Mazzulla said after the game. "Payton, Blake, the whole crew: you can always count on them."