It’s finally here, the opening home game of the season. Tonight, the Celtics host the reigning NBA champions, the Kawhi-less Toronto Raptors who are fresh off dishing out a beating to the New Orleans Pelicans.
A worrisome team to face, in their last game they had two players in Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet combine for 68 points, 23 rebounds and 12 assists. That’s before you add in the contributions of veterans Marc Gasol and Kyle Lowry, it’s not going to be an easy game.
With big wings such as OG Anunoby and Siakam it projects to be a tough night for Boston’s own wing players.
While the Pelicans showed that Gasol can be exposed when guarding a stretch five, other than Daniel Theis, the Celtics don’t have the personnel on hand to exploit that kind of match up.
Enter Kemba Walker.
Walker has typically toasted the Raptors in recent years, scoring a total of 250 points over his last 10 meetings with them. This run goes back to January 21st, 2017, where Kemba cooked them for 32 points, 8 assists, and 4 rebounds while shooting 11 of 16.
Less than a month later he dropped another 24 on them, and so continued his run of feasting on their defense. Toronto’s back court hasn’t changed much since then, Lowry has usually been his counterpart during these duels, head-to-head battles which Lowry has failed to win time and time again.
Following his tepid display against the Sixers on Opening Night, Walker may also feel he has a point to prove, and who better to prove it against than a team he torments so regularly?
Kemba Walker: “Tough night for many of us. But me personally, I just wish I could have done a lot more to play better for these guys.”— Jay King (@ByJayKing) October 24, 2019
It may only be Game 2 but a bounce back game may be on the cards, following his poor shooting performance of 4 for 18 on 22.2% shooting.
In his last game against the Raptors, Walker did the majority of damage when driving inside and forcing the defense to rotate. Displaying finishing ability on all three tiers while finishing comfortably with both hands, finishing the game with 29 points, 8 assists, and 6 rebounds on 11 for 18 shooting.
Having lead the league in usage as a ball handler in pick-and-roll situations last year. it’s going to be interesting to see how Brad Stevens utilizes his rotation of bigs to best compliment Kemba’s effectiveness as a penetrator.
While the game does not rest solely on Walker’s shoulders, he figures to be a key piece tonight. During this ten game run of supremacy, he has also averaged 6.7 assists, with his high being 13 in March of this year. Surrounded by a better supporting cast coupled with the roar of the Celtics fans to cheer him on, Walker is in prime position to lead the Celtics to victory.