Kemba Walker Takes Charge as Celtics Down Suns
As a leader, Kemba Walker looks to take charge for the Boston Celtics. And that’s exactly what the energetic point guard did Thursday night, as he drained the solar power right out of the scorching-hot Phoenix Suns while leading the C’s to a 99-86 win at TD Garden.
Walker took charge on the offensive end, delivering a game-leading and season-high-tying 32 points in an otherwise low-scoring affair. And he took charge – quite literally – on the defensive end, drawing three offensive fouls to help take Phoenix out of its rhythm after beating a pair of Eastern Conference powerhouses in the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers in its previous two outings.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Walker perfectly encapsulated his excellent two-way effort all in a 20-second sequence.
With 4:57 remaining in the game, he hoisted up a contested, off-balance 3-pointer that somehow found its way through the net to give the Celtics a 90-76 lead. He then hustled back on defense, put his 6-foot frame up to the test against 6-foot-5 Devin Booker, and drew his third charge of the game against the notorious Celtics assassin, causing Booker to foul out, thus setting the sun on Phoenix’s hope of staging a late comeback.
Kemba knocks down a wild 3 and then draws a charge on the other end, causing Devin Booker to foul out. What a night for No. 8 pic.twitter.com/BXRQpt0j45— Taylor Snow (@taylorcsnow) April 23, 2021
Despite the fact that he has his best offensive performance of the season, Walker was proudest of his defensive effort – specifically in taking those three charges against Booker to set an example for the rest of his teammates.
“It's important,” Walker said of putting his body on the line. “Those were all big plays. I think, for the most part, it's just me letting guys know that if I can take them, we all can take 'em. That's really it. It's about sacrifice. It's about jumping in front of a guy, getting your body up to get the actual possession for your teammates. I want to win and plays like that show it. Just trying to lead by example.”
Though, Walker wasn’t just leading by example in this game. He’s been doing so, somewhat under the radar, all season long.
Despite playing in less than two-thirds of his team’s games, Walker is now tied for the league lead in charges drawn, having logged 19 in just 38 appearances.
So yes, a 6-foot, 184-pound guard, who is just six months removed from knee surgery, is leading the league in the most brutal hustle category that exists.
While that may also sound a bit alarming, considering Walker’s recent medical history, he insists that he is feeling as healthy as could be.
“I'm feeling great,” he said. “I've been doing a great job of just taking care of my body. It's all about the upkeep and continuing to do that. Continuing to feel good.”
His play is certainly backing up such a claim, as he has amassed 25-plus points in each of his last two outings. The last time he reached that benchmark in consecutive games was Jan. 24-26, 2020.
“I’m just proud of the way he’s responded,” Marcus Smart said of Walker’s progress coming off of surgery. “He comes every day to get his work in and doesn’t let anything faze him. He’s very professional. And he comes out and it pays off. So I’m very happy, I’m very proud of him, and I’m excited that he’s finally getting his legs back under him.”
The only time his legs aren’t under him is when he’s drawing those offensive fouls.
But in Walker’s mind, there is nothing more satisfying than sacrificing his body for the betterment of his team. There is nothing that he finds more satisfying than taking charge.