There’s no doubt: Robert Williams’ bold determination and game is the difference for the Celtics during this magical race

Prior to Wednesday at TD Garden, Williams must have dived into a Cocoon pond with Don Ameche and Wilford Brimley because he played a physical card, a zip that has not been seen since the injury. Throwing offensive rebounds. He fired Golden State shots over the edge. He collected the loose balls. He was hopping high to dunk.

The Celtics got the best of Williams with their magical 116-100 win. Three days after he got off the ground in Game 2, the Warriors players shouted from the bench, “He can’t move!” On the offensive property, Williams shrugged off the pain, ran hard with his limp and made a defensive impact in this decisive win.

Williams played nearly 26 minutes, mostly in the series, and finished with 8 points, 10 rebounds, 4 blocking shots, 3 steals and several changing shots on the edge. The Celtics needed Rob for edge protection in Game 3 if they had any hope of responding from their Game 2 defeat.

It was uncertain whether he would be physically able to provide that resistance at the edge. He underwent surgery to repair a meniscus tear on March 30 and returned on April 23, with the organization knowing that the knee needed constant attention and would swell after the games. Williams then sustained a bone bruise in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Milwaukee Bucks and missed the final four games of the series.

Robert Williams’ stern defense affected the Warriors’ Draymond Green in Game 3.Jim Davis/Globe Stuff

He has struggled ever since, missing the third game of the Conference Finals against the Miami Heat. Since then, he has played in seven games in a row, giving the Celtics all they can give. Sometimes the results are extraordinary and other nights, he displays flashes of defensive brilliance and offensive dominance over the edge.

“I’m just trying to be responsible for my team,” he said. “We’ve come this far. Like I said, I obviously had a discussion with myself, going through with it. I’m happy with what’s going on. We’ll worry about injury after the season, but I’m still fighting for now.”

These “questionable” lists before each game are not a gaming skill. They are legitimate. Williams has felt a variety of ways after games during the post-season, from extremely painful to somewhat clever. Doctors told Celtics Williams’ team he couldn’t add more damage to the knee, so it’s a sore issue.

And one-legged players aren’t good at high-profile NBA Finals. Williams needs to be productive when he’s on the floor. So his recovery from game to game is a delicate process.

“This season is what it is. We’ve talked about it. But he’s not doing much physically in the middle, so you don’t really have a feeling until he really gets a good warm-up,” Celtics coach Im Odoka said. Satisfied sometimes. The second day is sometimes more painful. So it comes and goes. That’s why we’re deliberating about including him and really checking him in in case he feels bad.

“The swelling was good. The pain was bearable. It’s a legitimate daily situation, and when he progresses before the match, then we know how he really feels.”

Williams’ importance to the team’s success is indisputable. A paint jumping jack with the ability to lock in on 3-point shooters and also an above average sense of the game and basketball intelligence, his ability to bounce back from injury has been his biggest detractor during his career. He was bothered by nagging injuries in his first three seasons. He’s kept him off the ground in 51 games over the past two seasons.

But this is no ordinary season. This is where legends are made, streamers win, and teams immortalized. The Celtics need 70 percent of Robert Williams. They need him to withstand the pain, learn to run with an obstacle in his stride and protect the rim, and dissuade Stephen Curry from attacking the rim.

Robert Williams finished with 8 points, 10 rebounds, 4 interceptions, and 3 steals.Jim Davis/Globe Stuff

He deals with the obvious pain, rests during rest days, then increases his training on game days. Early on Wednesday he rode the stationary bike, feeling smart and telling the coaches to remove the “doubtful” from his situation.

He showed not only his coaches, but his teammates and Celtics believers that he is willing to do whatever it takes to reach the ultimate goal.

“I’m constantly talking to Rob, just for the fact that I know what he’s going through,” said guard Marcus Smart. “He’s in pain, and even though he’s hurt, he still wants to go out and help his team. But at the same time he’s thinking about his career. Like I just told him, you know your body. You know what you can tolerate and what you can’t stand. But just know, We have a chance to do something special. There are no guarantees that we will come back here.

“If you could go, we would take 20 percent better from you than nobody else. He understood that, and he decided to go out there and put on his little pants and suck it up and go crazy.”


Gary Washburn is a columnist for The Globe. He can be reached at gary.washburn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter Tweet embed.

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