Grant Williams Reflects On Rivalry With Bam Adebayo, ‘It’s More Fun’

Grant Williams Reflects On Rivalry With Bam Adebayo, ‘It’s More Fun’

Published May 26, 2022
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Getty Bam Adebayo #13 of the Miami Heat and Grant Williams #12 of the Boston Celtics.

Grant Williams’ rivalry with Bam Adebayo goes back to their high school days. Both played for opposing high school basketball teams in North Carolina where they faced off against each other. In the years since then, the two have already faced off in the NBA Playoffs twice. In a recent interview with Sports Illustrated, Williams went into detail on the approach he takes when guarding Adebayo.

With Bam—same with Giannis—he’ll kinda barrel into you and hope that you’ll get out of the way or foul him. For me, I stand tough before they get too low, and then just force him into a midrange pull-up. Force him into a shot I want him to take, rather than a dunk or a layup that he might get on someone else.

Even though Williams has a long-standing rivalry with Adebayo that started before the former played for the Boston Celtics or before the latter played for the Miami Heat, Williams relishes the challenge of playing against Adebayo. Because, in Grant’s words, Adebayo’s improvement since high school has made the matchup more fun.

I feel like he’s gotten so much better since then. So as much as it could help, he’s improved so much that it’s one of those things, I can’t really go off my high school scouting report. As the years have gone on, it’s gotten more and more fun to play against him because of how much he’s improved, how much he continually wants to get better and improve his shot. I’m really just excited to play him throughout my career.

According to, Williams has matched up with Adebayo for 23 minutes and 22 seconds of the 2022 Eastern Conference Finals. In that time, Adebayo scored 23 points on 10-for-16 shooting from the floor. While Williams has been his primary defender, Adebayo has put up a field goal percentage of 62.5 percent.

Those numbers aren’t great, but neither Al Horford nor Robert Williams III has had much better luck against Bam. In the 21 minutes and nine seconds that Horford has matched up with Adebayo, Adebayo scored 19 points on 9-for-14 shooting from the field, which is good for a 64.3 field goal percentage. In the eight minutes and 56 seconds that Robert Williams III has matched up with Adebayo, Adebayo scored nine points on 3-for-5 shooting from the field, which is good for 60 percent shooting.

However, despite Adebayo’s solid shooting numbers, he’s only putting up 14.8 points a game in this series on 10.4 shot attempts a game. Even though he’s shot well from the field in this series, he hasn’t shot much at all.

Grant Williams has received praise for the defense he played on Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo in the 2022 NBA Playoffs. In his interview with Sports Illustrated, Williams acknowledged that he is okay with guarding taller players. However, Williams said that it’s harder for him to guard smaller players, like point guards, who are shifty quick, using Darius Garland as an example.

For guys like myself, the hardest people to guard are like Darius Garland. Small, shifty point guards. The longer, taller guys, and the physical guys I’m O.K. with. I do a good job on Darius and guys like that. But for me, it’s always been a small, small, small point guard that’s really shifty and quick.

The Celtics had to face players that fit that description in previous rounds like Kyrie Irving and Jrue Holiday. Kyle Lowry also fits this description, but he was absent the first two games of the conference finals because of a hamstring injury and hasn’t been very effective since coming back in Game 3, having averaged 4.7 points, 2.7 assists, and surrendering 2.3 turnovers a game.