By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Kemba Walker started with a bang in Dallas. Then he cooled off, only to finish with an even bigger bang to lead the Celtics to a much-needed road victory.
Walker led all scorers with 32 points in Boston’s 109-103 victory over the Mavericks on Wednesday, with 13 of those points coming in the decisive fourth quarter. All 13 of those points came during the final 5:17, with Kemba missing just one shot in that span.
The point guard got off to an even hotter start than his finish, dropping 16 points in the opening frame. That early scoring eruption from Walker kept Boston close as many of his teammates struggled to get the ball in the basket, with the two teams tied 29-29 after the first 12 minutes of action.
Walker went scoreless in the second quarter, and the Mavericks took a five-point lead into the locker room. He had just three points in the third, but the C’s entered the fourth quarter with a three-point lead as other picked up the slack. That continued into the final frame, as Jaylen Brown (28 points) and Jayson Tatum (24 points) carried the load early. With the two teams tied 78-78, Tatum led the charge in an 8-0 Boston run with a helper to Brown, a three and a fierce and-one dunk.
Then it was Kemba’s turn to take over. He proceeded to score seven straight for Boston, by way of a three and four straight free throws. His driving layup with 1:43 left put Boston up by 10 points, and the C’s hit their free throws over the final minute to seal the victory.
It was an impressive road win, even though Dallas was without their MVP in Luka Doncic. The Celtics beat a playoff team on the road for the first time this season (dropping their previous six matchups), and did so without Marcus Smart or Gordon Hayward.
Walker went 9-for-18 from the floor, 5-for-10 from downtown and 9-for-11 from the charity stripe. When he needed to score, he scored. When he was met with Dallas double-teams and needed to defer to teammates, he deferred to teammates, letting them carry the way.
In a nutshell, Kemba Walker is perfect for these Boston Celtics. He’s a guy who doesn’t mind leading the way and taking the big shot when it’s his time, because that’s what he did for eight seasons in Charlotte. But he also doesn’t mind taking a back seat as others heat up. You’ll never hear him complain if someone else gets the call for one of Brad Stevens’ famous ATO plays. His attitude is infectious up and down the roster, and his teammates feed off his confidence in them.
On Wednesday, Boston’s trio of Walker, Brown and Tatum showed a glimpse of what should be a bright future up and down the roster, whether Walker is leading the way or letting the youngsters do their thing.