Kemba Continues To Own MSG in Coming Out Party with C's
NEW YORK – Madison Square Garden still belongs to Kemba Walker.
More than eight years after he lit the building ablaze with his unforgettable run with UConn in the Big East Tournament, Walker is still owning opponents inside the World’s Most Famous Arena.
His latest victim was the New York Knicks, who he torched Saturday night for a season-high 32 points that led the Celtics to a 118-95 win.
Walker humbly said after the game that he doesn’t always play great at MSG, but he did admit that the arena he’s played in since he was a teenager gives him a special feeling and edge.
“It’s great energy in here, obviously,” he told Celtics.com. “I’m from here. I’ve been playing here since I was in high school, man. So it’s just always good to come back.”
Walker’s return was made even better by grabbing a win on a night in which he threw his coming out party with the Celtics. This contest featured his best performance with the Celtics to date, and that includes the preseason.
Walker averaged 17.5 points per game during his first two regular-season games with Boston while struggling to find his rhythm. He shot just 12-for-40 from the field across those two contests, good for just 30.0 percent, and he seemed to be forcing things on the offensive end.
That was not the case Saturday night inside his most beloved arena, particularly during the second half. Walker came out after the halftime break and shot a near-perfect 8-for-9 from the field, including five 3-pointers, en route to 21 second-half points. His scoring played a critical role in Boston’s ability to pull away from New York and turn a close game into a blowout win.
The three-time All-Star point guard pointed toward halftime as the turning point for him. It provided the spark he needed to catch fire and to relocate his magic inside MSG.
“At halftime, when I went out there and got some shots up, I felt good actually,” Walker recalled. “I felt like I just had to make a few adjustments on my shot. I did that, and I was able to be consistent in the second half.”
Walker’s consistency gave Boston a highly-anticipated view of what it can look like when the All-Star is scoring the way he did for the last eight seasons in Charlotte. The Celtics acknowledge that they won’t achieve their goals this season without that version of Walker.
“We’re gonna need a lot from Kemba,” said Marcus Smart. “We’re gonna need times when Kemba’s going to have to take over games.”
Walker did exactly that Saturday night inside the arena he has owned since his high school days. He took over against the Knicks and pushed Boston into the winner’s circle for the second time in as many days with a red-hot shooting performance.
Now, after a three-games-in-four-days stretch to open the season, Walker and the Celtics head home for a three-day break before hosting Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks Wednesday night. The hope is that his hot hand won’t go anywhere, and that it will carry on through Wednesday and beyond.
The Celtics want Walker to maintain his rhythm and take ownership of his new home, TD Garden, in the same fashion he’s taken ownership of Madison Square Garden in the past.