The Boston Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder went into Sunday as two of the hottest teams in the league. Both teams were 9-1 over their last ten, and the Celtics were riding a six-game win streak while the Thunder were on a four-game streak of their own.
As advertised, this game did not disappoint. The Celtics defeated the Thunder 112-111, taking away an impressive win on the road stretching their winning streak to seven. They were carried again by Jayson Tatum’s 26 points, his eighth straight 20-point game.
But it was Kemba Walker who stole the show and took over late in the game, leading the Celtics with 27 points. In the first half, he started off a measly 3-for-11 from the field but did finish the half with 13 points. He made his way to the line and converted his free throw attempts but could not get his shot going. It seemed to be one of those games where Walker just did not have his shot until he made up for it after halftime.
Facing a nine-point deficit through two quarters, the Celtics had to flip the switch if they wanted to get back into this game. They had a comeback in the third quarter that set up a tie game going into the fourth quarter. This is where Kemba Walker once again made a huge impact, scoring 10 points in the clutch to help secure the Celtics victory.
Kemba has a made it a trend to be Boston’s closer. He starts out slowly, only hitting a few of his first shots, and then in the second half, getting to another gear and taking over the game. No matter the situation and what his stats are to that point, he will have the confidence to take the big shots when the team needs them the most.
In the second half against the Thunder, he shot 3-for-5 from the field having a much more efficient half. Breaking it down even more, he went 3-for-3 and 2-for-2 from three in the fourth quarter. The Celtics were trading buckets with the Thunder in the fourth quarter before Kemba took over and put the game away, not missing for a four-minute stretch.
When he was taking the ball up the court, his instinct was to shoot if the Thunder defense gave him even a glimmer of daylight. He has made his career on being dangerous flying around the screens and pulling up for three. If anyone sags back on him, like Danilo Gallinari in this game, Walker will pull up and take the open shot. This was the death sentence for the Thunder as he drilled two of them back-to-back.
Teams are going to have to start blitzing him above the arc when he takes the ball around these types of screens if they want to deter him from shooting. Walker is an assassin and will continue to hit these big time shots in the fourth quarter until teams do something about it. The Thunder either have to throw two bodies at Walker or have help so Gallinari is not isolated defending him. All of his shots in the fourth quarter had him head-to-head against Gallinari. Advantage: Kemba.
It is nice to know with Kemba Walker that even if he is struggling throughout an entire game, Kemba, new King of the 4th, can still take over. Here against the Thunder, a 3-for-11 start did not shake the confidence he carries with him. It has happened many times this season, and it will be a huge factor when the Celtics need a shot down the stretch of a big game. Walker can be the bucket getter the team needs.