How Kemba Walker ‘Willed’ Celtics To A Desperate Win

Getty Images Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker of the Boston Celtics all smiles

A win’s a win; it’s one of the biggest clichés you’ll ever hear in sports.

They are typically used in describing a team’s least-deserving victory. But on Friday night, for the first time in four tries, the Boston Celtics captured a much-needed ‘W’– a 118-112 win over the Indiana Pacers — and it didn’t come easy for Kemba Walker and the Celtics, which made the win doubly satisfying for head coach Brad Stevens.

“It’s good to get a win in a day that ends in ‘Y’ right now,”  Stevens said. “That’s all I can say; just good to get a win. And I don’t care how we did it. Other than; stayed together, played together, doesn’t matter who’s having an off-night, doesn’t matter who’s having a great night. It’s about our team finishing it and figuring out a way to win.”

Barred by the Pacers’ outside touch — where they connected on three consecutive 3-pointers from the jump — the Celtics fell into a 14-point hole fast. In fact, Indiana made its first five threes; all in the opening frame.

However, by the end of the quarter, Boston was trailing by only one point (32-31). And Walker, who was fresh off a three-day rest, was the biggest reason why.

Brad Stevens On Kemba Walker: ‘I Don’t Think We Win The Game Without His Will’

Scoring 10 of his game-high 32 points in the first quarter and leading his team out of a 14-point hole; Walker was consistent throughout the night and the Celtics’ first-quarter display was just a hint of what would ultimately turn into a challenging victory. Midway through the final frame, the Pacers pulled to within three (104-101) before Walker’s layup capped off a 6-0 Celtics run, which Boston its first double-digit lead of the game and secured the win.

“I don’t think we win the game without his will, tonight,” Stevens said. “I think that no matter how everybody was playing when that thing was 18-4; he was the loudest voice. He willed us back into that thing. Now, we’re back on our footing. We have a little bit of confidence, which had been shot, right? This week. But that’s what really good players do, and that’s what veterans do. That’s what guys who have been there, done that, do. I really thought he led us tonight.”

The rest paid off. Walker, who’s been sitting out on the second night of back-to-back sets, sat during Wednesday’s loss against the Atlanta Hawks, and then a clearly rejuvenated Kemba turned in a stellar performance Friday against the Pacers.

Celtics’ Kemba Walker: 32 points, 6 Assists In Win Over Pacers

He drained 10-of-19 attempts from the floor, including 4-of-10 from behind the arc, and was a perfect 8-of-8 from the free-throw line to go with his four rebounds and one steal.

Walker also turned in a team-high six assists. Coupled with an efficient high-level offensive attack and vocal leadership, Kemba’s influence forced the Celtics to erase deficits and eventually grab their first-double digit lead of the night in the final frame.

They finished with 42 made field-goals on 24 assists while shooting 51.2% from the floor. It combated Pacers All-Star Domantas Sabonis (24 points, 9 assists), Myles Turner (17 points, 10 rebounds), and Justin (5-of-9), and Aaron Holiday’s hot shooting touch — the Pacer brothers were a combined 8-for-16 from 3.

As for Boston, Daniel Theis (17 points, 3 blocks) turned in one of his better performances of the season that included a 3-pointer dagger down the stretch against the Pacers, the second unit stepped up on both ends, and Jaylen Brown (15 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists) stuffed his stat line.

Is Resting What The Doctor Ordered For The Boston Celtics?

The Celtics’ recent skid is a testament to just how grueling the regular-season schedule has been and Stevens is hoping a little home-cooking — a three-game homestand at TD Garden — will help ease things.

“We’ve had a lot of deep conversations about the right way to approach the intensity in these schedules,” Stevens explained. “We’ve been in a really tough spot in the standpoint of we’re always missing somebody and when Kemba sits on the second night of a back-to-back, you’re missing two of your four best players. So, that has presented some challenges and some unique-ness but I think we all have to. Yeah, we all have to be alert to that. It’s also why you’re just doing the best you can, right now. I think that we’ll have a little bit more freshness as this week goes along just because you’re sleeping in your own bed.

“You’re not getting in at 2 in the morning on consecutive nights like you did earlier this week and you’ll just kind of catch-up that way and hopefully, feel good by the end of the week.”

READ NEXT: Danny Ainge On Building The 2020-21 Celtics: ‘I’ve Made Mistakes’

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