Pregame Post-Ups: Walker Looks to Continue to Regain Rhythm vs. OKC
Sunday, March 8 - Thunder at Celtics
Pregame – Walker Looks to Continue to Regain Rhythm vs. OKC
BOSTON – Kemba Walker’s clutch performance from the Celtics’ Feb. 9 matchup in Oklahoma City was still fresh on the mind of Thunder coach Billy Donovan as he led his team into TD Garden for Sunday evening’s rematch. The All-Star point guard dominated down the stretch of that game, as he scored eight points during the final two minutes and forty seconds, including the game-sealing free-throw with 3.4 seconds remaining to secure a 112-111 Celtics win.
“He’s a handful, and he’s hard to guard,” Donovan said ahead of Sunday's tip-off. “I actually thought that we defended him well on several possessions coming down the stretch, but he made some tough shots. That’s what he does.”
What made the effort even more remarkable was that Walker accomplished it against a backcourt featuring nine-time All-Defensive teamer Chris Paul and another high-energy guard in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Still, Walker managed to drive and draw contact at will, as he made it to the free-throw line 13 times during the contest.
“He’s obviously got great feet, he’s got great speed and he’s terrific with the ball,” Donovan said. “So for us, I’ve always said, against elite scorers you’ve got to make it as hard as you can against them. We did a good job for a good portion of the game, but obviously he got loose late. But he also made some tough shots over some outstretched arms, which to his credit, he made some timely plays.”
Though Walker hasn’t had a performance of such magnitude since that game. A right knee injury has hampered his production and playing time since Feb. 9, as he’s played in just four games while averaging 16.8 points on 31.3 percent shooting.
Following Friday night’s effort against Utah, however, Walker claimed to be making strides, as he made it through the whole game without feeling any pain.
“Definitely trending upward and I’m feeling good,” he said after a 13-point, seven-assist effort. “Today was the best I felt in a little while, so I’m happy about that.”
Walker is still on a playing-time restriction that will limit him to fewer than 30 minutes of action tonight, but he hopes to continue to rediscover his rhythm against a team that he’s had great success against recently.
- Taylor Snow