Kemba Walker’s performance in the Boston Celtics’ narrow 102-99 victory over the Toronto Raptors probably wouldn’t fly if he were still a member of the Charlotte Hornets.
Back then, Walker was the guy, and the Hornets’ offense started and ended with him. Therefore, an off day usually resulted in a loss.
But since he’s joined the Celtics ahead of the 2019-20 season, he’s flourished as a leader, while he no longer has to do it all for his team every night. And in the ninth year of his NBA career, he’s finally made it to the second-round of the playoffs.
So on nights like Game 2, where he shot 2-for-14 through the first three quarters, there are other guys like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart he can rely on to lift him up.
“You know, you know what I’ve been through,” Walker told reporters after the win, as seen on NBC Sports Boston’s postgame coverage.
“Everybody knows what I’ve been through, never having been in the second round. And a lot of times in my career, in games like that, it probably would have been a blowout. For me to have these guys who can step up and just make huge plays the way they did, man, it’s special. It’s a great feeling to know that guys have my back like that. I just really appreciate my teammates.”
While his teammates kept things close for the Celtics against the Raptors, Walker had his moment to repay them.
In the fourth quarter, the point guard dropped 11 points on Toronto, shooting 4-for-4 from the field and 1-for-1 from beyond the arc. His fourth quarter also included the biggest shot of the game, perhaps.
“I’ll tell you what, Kemba’s shots were huge,” head coach Brad Stevens said after the win, per NBC Sports Boston.
With Boston up by one point with 41.6 seconds left in the game, Walker hit a step-back jumper to make it 102-99. He almost broke Serge Ibaka’s ankles in the process, too.
“I’ve missed so many shots in my life, I have missed so many shots throughout my career,” Walker said. “I’m never going to get down on myself. I’m going to find ways to help my teammates. I thought tonight, I thought I stayed solid defensively, which was most important.
“My teammates held it down… I work hard on my game. I thought I got great looks, and they weren’t falling. It happens to the best of us. I just stayed aggressive, and just stayed within myself.”
Walker finished with 17 points, six rebounds and four assists and a huge grin on his face, as he was just happy to win.
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