On paper, they weren’t critical minutes in pressure situations with the C’s lead never dipping below double digits, but the impact Walker made over that short period wasn’t lost on Celtics coach Brad Stevens.
So much so that Stevens couldn’t wait to highlight Walker’s mentality and ability to come off the bench midway through the fourth quarter and put a dagger in Cleveland’s rally by sinking three straight 3-pointers to secure yet another win for the Celtics as they improved to a perfect 10-0 on their home floor.
“I just told the team afterward, ‘If you want to be special, then model after Kemba,’” said Stevens as Walker finished with a team-high 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting to go along with seven assists. “Because Kemba sits over there (on the bench). Thinks his night’s done. Gets put back in the game. Drills three 3s and ends it.
“Special is not for everybody, but that’s just different. That’s just always ready. Always wanting to be called upon. Always loving to play. He’s not untying his shoes. He’s staying ready because he knows this game can change in a heartbeat.”
The complexion of the contest did change for the C’s as they had a 29-point third-quarter advantage trimmed all the way down to 12 just three minutes into the final frame.
Not long after, Stevens made the move to the bullpen and summoned his closer in Walker. The veteran star point guard waited a moment before slamming the door completely shut on the Cavs with three triples going through the net in just under 90 seconds.
Walker first knocked down a silky-smooth step-back trey over Kevin Love before using a Grant Williams screen — Walker’s defender went under the pick — to connect on another trey. Even though the advantage now wasn’t in doubt, Walker added one more 3-pointer for good measure, this time coming in transition as he pulled up from 26-feet and swished the attempt.
For Walker, it has been an ideal start to his Boston tenure as he has made an immediate impact to help the C’s claim the second best record in the Eastern Conference so far with a 17-5 mark.
“I’ve been having a blast being here,” Walker said. “These guys are making me feel at home each and every day. So yeah, it’s been nothing but fun. Especially when you win, it definitely makes everything a lot better.”
As Waker explained, it’s not the stats, but the winning that gives him the most joy, a trait he exudes fervently when he’s on the court, illustrated by his infectious smile.
Walker never won more than 48 games during his eight years with the Charlotte Hornets. Due in part to his stellar play, Walker’s on track to experience his best season in terms of winning since college.
He’s waited for this moment since entering the NBA, which is exactly why Walker was ready when Stevens put him back into the game to close things out.
“Just being able to compete at the highest level, that’s why I’m here,” Walker said.