In Kemba Walker’s first game back on Sunday, he was limited to 20 minutes and definitely had to work out the kinks against the Knicks. But as CelticsBlog’s Daniel Lubofsky wrote, his mere presence was a bright spot in an otherwise embarrassing blowout. He only had 9 points, but, again, it was him simply being back that was a huge takeaway for the Celtics.
Wednesday night, Kemba was still under a minutes restriction, but he took on a different approach to the game. He started out wanting to control the game from the tip. It was the intensity he showed early on making his first two baskets. Walker was not trying to ease into things.
These two clips are a welcome sight for Celtics Nation. It is imperative for Kemba to prove to himself that he can take over games early and be a bucket getter. Sometimes after injury, it takes time to ease back into top form. Luckily, early against the 76ers, Walker was back into his rhythm, creating shots off the dribble after the high screen at the top of the key. It is where he makes his money.
Kemba Walker finished his night with 19 points and 6 assists in 22 minutes, but it was his first half where he score 17 of those points shooting 5-for-6 from three-point range that showcased peak Kemba. He had it cooking as he carved up the defense on multiple occasions. Once he saw the defender dropping under the screen, he took advantage and rose up for an uncontested shot.
He was asked after the game about his performance and what was better for him now. He said, “everything. I think just my movements. My movement is a lot better. I’m more comfortable just being me, splitting screens, getting downhill, stop and go. Most importantly is my pull-ups.”
Another aspect outside of his individual game is how he can elevate the rest of the team around him. Throughout the night, there were many instances of Daniel Theis playing so well off Kemba. Theis had a superb night scoring 23 points of his own. Of those 23 points, Kemba assisted for five Theis baskets.
These two have great pick-and-roll chemistry that is so important on the offensive end. Kemba raises up Theis’s game to where Theis can roll and be around the rim knowing that Kemba will deliver the ball to him on a silver platter. It is a relationship that has been lacking with the point guard play so far this season. Not to say they have not done the job, but Kemba brings a different level which fits with Theis’ game.
Working Kemba Walker back in will be a tall task for Brad Stevens in the coming days and weeks. Even as he says he is feeling better, a small tweak could sideline him for an extended time. All things considered, Kemba Walker looked great and that’s a big win in a minor loss.