For Kemba Walker and the Celtics, sweeping the Sixers out of the NBA playoffs is a feat not worthy for a celebration.
For the first time in his nine-year career, Walker has reached the Eastern Conference semifinals. His game-high 32 points led the Celtics to a 110-106 Game 4 series-clinching win as they finished off the Sixers Sunday afternoon.
“I don’t know if it’s much to celebrate, honestly,” Walker said. “We didn’t do much, yet. It’s a great thing we were able to beat that team, of course. It’s a great team, great players and it does feel good but we know it’s not over.”
Walker brings up a valid point. Reaching the conference semis wasn’t the goal that was set by Brad Stevens and his coaching staff one year ago nor was it the same goal when the Celtics first arrived to the bubble in Orlando, so why would they celebrate?
“We’ve got to play better in the last three minutes of the game,” Stevens said. “That’s all I care about right now.”
Still, it is the first time Walker has ever won a playoff series. Perhaps, the All-Star point guard already understands he’s a long way from the destination that he and his team desire or maybe looking ahead to the daunting task that awaits finally sunk in.
“Toronto’s the defending champions, you know?” Walker said. “Tough team.”
Eastern Conference Semis vs Raptors
The Raptors followed the Celtics’ lead and completed a sweep of its own Sunday, setting the stage for the NBA’s first playoff series between the two division rivals. The Celtics, winners of three of their last four meetings against the Raptors, including a 122-100 blowout three weeks ago, will be facing a much tougher opponent than the team Boston sent home Sunday.
The Raptors have been a thorn in Stevens and the Celtics’ side for years; a showdown between two low-key rivals that have shared equally a string of narrow victories, blowout losses and revenge wins over the years.
Dating back to 2017, the Celtics and Raptors entered the bubble with a .500 record (8-8) in head-to-head matchups. August 7 marked only the Celtics’ ninth win in 17 tries.
Kemba Walker’s Injury Update
When the Celtics training staff removed Walker’s minutes restriction ahead of the postseason, it was a sign of good things to come before the All-Star point guard put together one impressive performance after another — which confirmed one thing: Kemba’s back.
He averaged 24.3 points on 49.3% shooting throughout the series along with 4.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.3 steals. And most importantly, Walker played with zero limitations.
Throughout the seeding games, Walker showed flashes of the player he was prior to his injury, however, the minutes restrictions left us wanting more. The most encouraging sign from Walker throughout the Celtics’ series against the Sixers was seeing his explosiveness towards the basket rim — which was something that was somewhat missing before the playoffs.
While Walker has proven his mid-range touch, a shot that causes fits in pick-and-roll sets, beating his opponent off the dribble will make things tougher for the Raptors. He was asked about his knee after Sunday’s win.
“It’s been great, it’s been great,” Walker repeated then paused. “It’s not over; I got to stay on top of it. I’ve been doing a great job at just sticking with it and my training staff — they’ve given me a great plan to stick to. The work’s not done. We won the series but we’re still looking forward to some more tough ones. As far as the rehab, I’ve got to stay consistent.”