Playoffs 2021

NBA Playoffs 2021: Lou Williams' first career playoff start, a timely reminder he is still a bucket

That's one way to make your first career playoff start!

With Trae Young sidelined with a bone bruise in his right foot, the Atlanta Hawks turned to veteran Lou Williams, who was inserted into the starting lineup, giving the Hawks a much-needed burst in their 110-88 Game 4 win.

Averaging just 6.5 points in 13 minutes per game in the 2021 postseson, Williams hasn't been called upon greatly in their run, serving more as a locker room leader than impacting the game on the court. But when his number was called, he more than answered the call.

TAKEAWAYS: Hawks step up in Young's absence to level series

In a must-win game for the Hawks, trailing 2-1 in the series, Williams was on fire from the jump, scoring seven early points as the Hawks established an early 10-point lead. He finished the night with 21 points on 7-of-9 shooting, adding eight assists and five rebounds, with just one turnover as the team's primary ball-handler.

Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green tried to warn everyone pre-game.

"Just staying poised, I knew about an hour before this game that I was going to start when they said Trae was out, so I just had to refocus my energy and put on a different hat and get ready for the game," Williams said in his on-court postgame interview.

"It was one of those nights, everybody played with confidence, everybody played at a high level, going back to Milwaukee tomorrow, were going to have to bottle it up and take it with us."

Acquired in a mid-season trade for Rajon Rondo, Williams contemplated retirement before suiting up for the Hawks and after tonight's game, everyone in Atlanta will be glad he didn't.

"Lou did an excellent job for us tonight, just running the team, establishing the tempo, we got great ball movement tonight, all the things we talked about [that] we needed and we got that tonight," Hawks head coach Nate McMillan said post-game.

"It started with our guards, I thought Bogey [Bogdan Bogdanovic] found his rhythm tonight knocking down some shots, Kevin [Huerter] was really good again, it was a total team effort and guys continue to step in and take advantage of opportunities when they get them."

The always-ready veteran has been an influential figure in the Hawks' turnaround this season, particulary in the ear of young superstar Trae Young, not only serving as his backup on the floor, but his main guy off it.

"I knew what Lou would bring, we all did, we knew that his ability to score and come off the bench and be productive," McMillan added.

"I talked to him about the role that [Rajon] Rondo was playing when he came here and that was a role of mentoring Trae and he understood that role, he accepted that role.

"He knew that Trae is the future of this organisation and he was coming in to back him up and he's done a great job mentoring Trae, talking about different situations, how to manage the game, different things he can do.

"His minutes was really cut coming here, he was a 20+ minute guy and he only has about 10-15 minutes behind Trae, so he really sacrificed that role to help this team and he's done a great job for us."

Williams is no stranger to putting up big numbers in the playoffs, but none of those games have come with the same magnitude of tonight's game, staring down the barrel of a 3-1 deficit in his first-ever Conference Finals appearance.

Playing in 86 playoff games all off the bench prior to tonight, the 34-year-old might be more of a veteran leader on this team, but he is still a walking bucket.

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