Kemba Walker’s debut with the Boston Celtics didn’t got off to a rousing start. He shot 4-for-18 from the field in the season-opening loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, and before things could get better in the next game versus the Toronto Raptors, they got worse.
Playing in front of the TD Garden crowd for the first time as a member of the Celtics, Walker’s play didn’t inspire the confidence of being the prized free agent pickup Boston signed to a four-year, $140.8 million contract at the start of the offseason.
In the first half against the Raptors, Walker’s shooting struggles continued, making just 1-of-9 attempts. But even when Walker’s head sunk unlike his shots, his teammates kept encouraging him to not shy away from taking those shots in the future.
In the second half, he turned into the player the C’s envisioned by hitting 7-of-13 attempts to score 18 of his 22 points over the final 24 minutes and lead the way to 112-106 victory.
Kemba Walker caught fire in the fourth quarter to help us finish with a 112-106 victory over the Raptors. pic.twitter.com/YGFhVI7HHU— Boston Celtics (@celtics) October 26, 2019
After the contest, Walker didn’t credit anything he did personally to turn his game around. Instead, he pointed to his teammates as a key to his success, a glaring observation to how different this Celtics team is from a season ago.
“My teammates, man, they were incredible,” Walker said. “The confidence they had in me, that’s what I needed. The things that they said to me were the things I needed to hear. They see my face kind of down at times, but they kept encouraging me. I appreciate those guys so much.”
Walker had the chance to repay his teammates and instill confidence in them later in the contest. While Walker was heating up early in the fourth quarter, Jaylen Brown rushed down the court and misfired on an 18-foot jumper with time off the shot clock having barley expired.
Brown would had been chewed out in a the past for a decision like this, but instead, he received encouraging words from Walker.
“Brad (Stevens) had an aneurysm and Kemba’s like, ‘You’re good, bro, just keep playing,’” Brown said.
And that’s what Brown did, and did so effectively, making big plays down the stretch. Brown, who finished with 25 points, nine rebounds and four assists in a team-high 38 minutes, came through with a nifty, long-range bounce pass to Hayward for a breakaway layup, a key block on Marc Gasol and drained a crucial 3-pointer with 2:49 left to expand Boston’s one-point lead.
JB with a DIME to Hayward on the break! pic.twitter.com/cdnR7C7M21— Boston Celtics (@celtics) October 26, 2019
Brown praised Walker for the support at a critical juncture, and it is again just another sign of things already appearing vastly different in terms of team chemistry from last year.
“It’s great for me just to know that (Walker) has your back because you don’t always have that case or that scenario,” Brown said. “Easily somebody could have said something or got upset or threw a tantrum or whatever. For Kemba to be like, ‘You’re good. Just play.’ It was the confidence I needed to make sure that the next play was the right play and I still had my confidence.”