Though it looked like the Boston Celtics were about to even the series up at one win a piece in the Eastern Conference Finals when forward Grant Williams sank a three-pointer halfway through the quarter to put the Celtics up 96-87, something happened which seemingly changed the momentum during the final stretch of the game. After draining the basket, Williams began talking smack to Heat star Jimmy Butler on his way back to the other end of the court, an action which many fans viewed as either unnecessary or as “poking the bear” in hindsight.
After the trash-talking incident, Butler seemed to be invigorated, and the Miami Heat went on a 24-9 run to win the game 111-105, putting them 2-0 over Boston in the series. Sports analyst Bill Simmons thinks the Grant Williams/Jimmy Butler trash talking catalyst was just coincidence, however. He thinks Williams isn’t to blame for the loss in the Celtics vs. Heat Game 2. Rather, the blame should be placed on the Celtics team as a whole for blowing yet another lead in the fourth quarter, just as they have “15-16 times this season.”
“Hanging that loss on Grant Williams is ridiculous,” Simmons said on Twitter. “The ‘he woke Jimmy up’ people need to get the F out of here. Jimmy has done that all playoffs. And the Celts have blown that exact game like 15-16 times this season. They get out-thought and out-executed in 4Q by any smart team.”
Of course, Williams shouldn’t be faulted for the fact that both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the Celtics’ two biggest stars, have fell off in the fourth quarter of the Heat series thus far, with Tatum failing to score a field goal in the fourth quarter of either game and Brown scoring only one field goal in the fourth quarter in both games.
“I think he said something, and I just responded,” Williams said of his trash-talking Jimmy Butler. “I’m a competitor, and I’m gonna battle. He got the best of me tonight, and at the end of the day it’s out of respect, because I’m not gonna run away from it. My mom always taught me, and my dad as well, you get your ass 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.”
When asked the same question, Jimmy Butler says Williams’ trash talk did indeed incite him to “key in” more during the final quarter of the Celtics vs. Heat Game 2.
“Yes, it did,” Butler said. “But that’s just competition at its finest. He hit a big shot, started talking to me. I like that. I’m all for that. It makes me key in a lot more. It pushes that will that I have to win a lot more. It makes me smile. It does. When people talk to me, I’m like, OK, I know I’m a decent player, if you want to talk to me out of everybody that you can talk to. But it’s just competition. I do respect him, though. He’s a big part of what they try to do. He switches. He can shoot the ball. I just don’t know if I’m the best person to talk to.”
The Celtics play the Heat for Game 3 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals in Miami on Sunday.