One key catalyst for the Celtics’ sizzling hot offense of late has been their All-Star point guard in Kemba Walker.
While the nine-year veteran is still recovering from a left knee injury, he’s done a terrific job of scoring in pockets from the mid-range – an important shot in Walker’s bag of many tricks that drastically impacts Brad Stevens’ offense. Due to some limitations, Walker has favored his signature pull-up 3 and mid-range touch over driving to the rim and converting layups.
In fact, 61% of Walker’s field goal attempts in all six of his appearances since the NBA restart came from behind the arc. Shooting at a 48.5% success rate, Walker’s outside touch is a constant threat for opposing teams, thus forcing defenses to defend the top more often when Walker is on the floor compared to when he’s out.
Walker’s also made his presence felt from inside the 3-point arc – a shot that has extended many of the Celtics’ recent scoring runs lately. Walker, who’s shooting at a 47.1% clip from 10-16 feet this season, according to basketball reference, can really heat up in pick-and-roll sets. This is where Walker makes his defenders pay, often at times, by either connecting on an open look or by finding an open teammate.
It’s made a tremendous difference for the Celtics, specifically for guys like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Gordon Hayward. All three are averaging at least 18 points throughout the Celtics’ first seven seeding games, including Tatum and Hayward – who are both shooting above 48% from the field in Orlando. Tatum (22.4) and Brown (19.5) – the Celtics’ leading scoring duo – earned praise from their point guard after Tuesday’s win.
“I think the next step is the passes they make,” Walker said. “Those two guys, they watch so much film and they are seeing how teams are guarding them.
“For them to make the plays they’ve been making lately, it’s pretty special. It’s been special to watch.”
Kemba’s Injury Update
Walker, who was asked for an update on his knee injury, said he’s not close to 100% but is certainly making progress.
“It’s getting there, it’s getting there,” Walker replied. “Today was probably the best I’ve felt out there. I was really comfortable, making my moves and stuff like that. It was good to make that move and see the ball go in as well so, yeah, I’m working every single day to continue to get my leg stronger, get my knee stronger. I’m feeling good and hopefully, I can continue to feel good and continue to take care of myself.”
How important is your midrange touch for the offense?
“I just try to take whatever the defense gives me, honestly,” Walkers said. “When I see a guy back, that’s just an opportunity for me too, you know, kind of get to my spot and get to my pull-up, which is a shot I’ve been pulling off for a really long time. A lot of us on this team do a pretty good job at shooting that shot. It’s all about getting each other open so we have those opportunities.”