When Kyrie Irving signed with the Brooklyn Nets, many Boston Celtics fans breathed a collective sigh of relief. After all, the drama associated with Irving wore thin on both fans and even his own teammates. Danny Ainge promptly found a massive upgrade from a cultural standpoint in Kemba Walker.
So far, the former University of Connecticut star has proven a perfect fit on and off the court. But on Wednesday night, the Celtics didn’t have Walker available. Still, that didn’t stop Brad Stevens’ team from accomplishing a rare scoring feat against none other than Irving’s Nets.
Kemba Walker has been a terrific fit in Boston
Since entering the NBA as the ninth overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft, Kemba Walker has gone from a part-time starter to a legit superstar. Early in his career, he flashed plenty of scoring ability with the then-Charlotte Bobcats. However, Walker struggled from an efficiency standpoint and shot under 40% in three of his first four NBA seasons.
However, everything changed in 2015-16. That year, the 6-foot, 172-pound point guard improved his shooting percentage significantly. Walker averaged 20.9 points on 42.7% shooting while leading Charlotte to just its third playoff berth since 2001.
By the time the former UConn star hit free agency in July 2019, Walker had earned three NBA All-Star selections. Ainge targeted the talented point guard as the ideal veteran to pair with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
Through a sign and trade deal, Walker joined the Celtics on a $141 million contract. Though he has had to deal with knee pain, the point guard has averaged nearly 21 points in 53 games this season.
The Celtics accomplished a rare scoring feat without their $141 million star
On Wednesday, the Celtics took on the Nets. However, Kemba Walker did not suit up. Despite not having their starting point guard, the Celtics acquitted themselves well. In fact, Boston accomplished a rare scoring feat even with their $141 million star cheering from the sideline.
With Walker unavailable, the Celtics got great contributions from the rest of their lineup. Brown led all scorers with 21 points. Tatum chipped in 19 points in just 18 minutes. Gordon Hayward struggled from the field but still finished with 18 points. Rising star Robert Williams enjoyed a career night with 18 of his own.
In total, the Celtics dropped 149 points on a Nets team that had no answer for Boston’s deep offense. According to ESPN Stats & Info, that represented the highest total for a team without a 25-point scorer since the Seattle SuperSonics scored 150 points on April 14, 1994.
Boston has plenty of scoring options to make an NBA title run
Wednesday night’s dominant offensive performance showed why the Celtics should be considered a favorite to win the Eastern Conference. Sure, the Milwaukee Bucks boast the best overall player in Giannis Antetokounmpo. However, no team has the scoring depth that Boston possesses.
A healthy Kemba Walker can get 20 points on any given night. Ditto for Tatum, who has quickly become one of the league’s brightest young stars. Brown’s athleticism and improved 3-point stroke make him a top scoring threat, too.
Plus, Boston also has Gordon Hayward in the fold. After a slow recovery from a devastating leg injury, the former Utah Jazz star has looked closer to his pre-injury form this season. The 6-foot-7, 225-pound small forward has put up 17.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 4.1 assists in 49 games. He may never live up to his gaudy salary, but Hayward’s versatility still carries value.
Moving forward, Boston obviously needs Walker to get back to full strength. But even if he can’t take on a full workload, the Celtics have plenty of offensive firepower to make an NBA title run this season.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference