In the NBA bubble, all eyes have been on Kemba Walker and his left knee.
Walker’s health has been of primary interest to the Celtics during the seeding games as they have their star guard playing on a minutes restriction due to a nagging knee injury that even four months off from basketball didn’t help fully mend.
But Walker seems to be regaining his All-Star form along with his strength in his knee with each game and assembled an impressive performance in Tuesday’s 122-107 win over the Memphis Grizzlies, which could quite possibly be his final tune-up before the playoffs begin next week.
Walker played 28 minutes in the C’s fourth straight win as he scored 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting to go along with four rebounds and three assists.
“It’s getting there,” said Walker of his knee following the game. “Today was probably the best I’ve felt out there. I was really comfortable making my moves and stuff like that. ... I’m working every single day to continue to get my leg stronger, get my knee stronger. I’m feeling good.”
For Walker, it was a much-needed bounce-back showing after a dismal 1-for-9 outing against the Orlando Magic Sunday, including going 0-for-5 from beyond the arc.
Jonas Valanciunas and the Memphis defense routinely sagged off of Walker coming off high pick-and-rolls, opening up plenty of room for Walker to step into jumpers and sink them with ease. All seven of Walker’s made field goals came from at least 17 feet away from the hoop.
“I just try to take whatever the defense gives me, honestly,” Walker said. “When I see guys back, that’s just an opportunity for me to get to my spot and get to my pull-up, which is a shot I’ve been shooting for a very long time.”
Walker’s knee looked sturdy as he played well into the fourth quarter even after a play that had some, including NBC Sports Boston play-by-play announcer Mike Gorman, holding their breath. With Brandon Clarke defending him, Walker worked his way into the middle of the floor and stopped on a dime. As he did so, his left leg became extended so much that his knee was inches away from touching the floor.
Asked Kemba about how he felt making this move and he said his body is "getting there" but today he felt his best and he feels really good getting into his signature moves like this deep cross back. https://t.co/b8UmyVbkqN— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) August 11, 2020
It was such an awkward position and with Walker dealing with a bulky knee, it was easy to see why Celtics fans might have gasped initially. But a moment later, they could breathe a collective sigh of relief.
This was a calculated move by Kemba, one that he has pulled from his bag often this season to lose a defender to gain separation before elevating on his jump shot. It’s exactly what he did this time and his knee held up, which was probably more important than Walker knocking down the shot.
“It was good to make that move and see the ball go in as well,” Walker said.
It’s also good to see Walker as close to the healthiest he’s been in a while as the Celtics will surely need him if they want to make a deep run in the playoffs.