Monday, Nov. 19 – Celtics at Hornets
Pregame – All Eyes on Kemba After 60-Point Game
CHARLOTTE – In spite of suffering an overtime loss to the Philadelphia 76ers Saturday night, Hornets point guard Kemba Walker still made quite a statement, producing the first 60-point game of the NBA season.
It was just one of many awe-inspiring efforts the eighth-year veteran has generated of late, and it will be up to the Boston Celtics Monday night to slow him down at Spectrum Center.
Walker is leading the Eastern Conference in scoring, tallying 28.7 points per game, while attempting the most shots (21.4 per game) of any player in the NBA. Through 15 games, he’s already made 58 3-pointers, placing him only four makes behind league-leader Stephen Curry. On top of all of that, he’s also serving as Charlotte’s primary playmaker, dishing out 6.1 assists per game.
The No. 1 reason for Walker’s recent offensive explosion is that his usage rate is sky-high. His usage percentage of 30.5 percent has him tied for sixth in the league, trailing only James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Zach Lavine, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid.
“He has the ball in his hands and he’s generating a lot of their offense,” observed Walker’s counterpart, Kyrie Irving, ahead of Monday’s matchup. “He’s getting a lot of open looks as well as [Cody] Zeller and (Willy) Hernangomez coming up and setting high screens for him. So, he’s primarily getting those open 3s from those high screen-and-rolls, and I think he’s No. 1 in the league in pick-and-rolls, and you can see the emphasis on getting him downhill and getting him in the crevices of the defense to collapse.”
So, how do the Celtics stop Walker from getting downhill and to the cup?
“You have to do everything you can,” Brad Stevens answered shortly ahead of the 7 p.m tip-off. “You have to go under screens. You can’t give him free throws unless it’s just one of those plays where he’s attacking and it’s a good physical play. You can’t lose him in the pick-and-rolls, the communication has to be great. You name it – everything has to be good, because he’s using so many of their possessions and he’s doing it at such an efficient rate.”
The Celtics have done a pretty decent job of limiting Walker in the past. During his three meetings against Boston last season, he never topped more than 24 points, while being limited to just eight 3-pointers in total.
Over the course of his career, Walker has only shot 39.4 percent from the field against the Celtics, including just 30.9 percent from deep.
This year, however, Walker has transformed into a completely different animal on the court. He’s scoring at the highest rate of any player in the East, all while being a strong, playmaking point guard.
Even with the league’s best defensive rating, containing Kemba will be no walk in the park for the Celtics Monday night.
– Taylor Snow
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