Sunday marked a turning point in the Boston Celtics’ season.
Kemba Walker returned to action after missing the first 11 games of the campaign while rehabbing from a knee injury. Sure, the Celtics lost heavily to the New York Knicks on Sunday, but Walker’s return was significant because his presence moves the C’s closer to their peak level.
Perhaps that’s why the latest NBA power rankings are noteworthy. The Celtics enter Week 5 of the NBA season as the No. 4 team in both ESPN’s and NBA.com’s power rankings.
Boston actually moved up two slots from ESPN’s previous weekly reckoning, and Tim Bontemps believes the real Celtics soon will stand up.
“Yes, the Celtics saw their five-game winning streak snapped by the Knicks on Sunday,” Bontemps wrote. “But if Kemba Walker is able to stay spry and healthy — and he looked that way in the 20 minutes he played in his season debut — Boston will be thrilled. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have been outstanding so far this season, but for the Celtics to get where they hope, they’ll need Walker at his best. That’s why Walker saying he was pain-free was all that mattered on Sunday.”
NBA.com’s John Schuhmann also focused on Walker before shifting his attention to Boston’s frontcourt.
“Kemba Walker was not great (3-for-13, five turnovers in less than 20 minutes) in his season debut on Sunday, he took a hard elbow to the ribs right before he hit his minutes limit, and the Celtics got trounced by a team that had lost five straight,” Schumann wrote. “But that Walker is healthy far outweighs any of the details from Sunday, like the fact that it was the least efficient game for any team this season. We don’t know when Jayson Tatum will be back, but the Celtics are still in second place in the East after three postponements and an easy win over the Magic on Friday.
“Upon his team’s return from six days off, coach Brad Stevens separated Tristan Thompson and Daniel Theis, with Theis coming off the bench for the first time since the first game of last season. Even after the 30-point loss on Sunday, the numbers have been much better (plus-8.2 points per 100 possessions in 125 total minutes) with either of the centers on the floor with Grant Williams (starting in Tatum’s place for now) than they have been with the two centers on the floor together (minus-17.3 in 103 minutes).”
The Celtics will face the Philadelphia 76ers twice and the Cleveland Cavaliers before ESPN and NBA.com issue new rankings. If a healthy Walker helps Boston fend off this week’s foes, the Celtics should consolidate their place near the top of the rankings, if not improve on it.