By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Before heading to the floor for a much-needed win in Game 5 against the Raptors, Celtics point guard Kemba Walker performed a quick “heart check” on his teammates. He was making sure they had plenty of heart heading into the game, something the team severely lacked throughout Saturday night’s frustrating Game 4 loss.
Walker did not get his medical degree at UConn, but his nickname is “Cardiac Kemba,” which should qualify him to perform such tests.
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) September 7, 2020
And it worked, as the Celtics displayed plenty of heart throughout a 111-89 beatdown of the Raptors, giving them a 3-2 series lead.
“I just wanted the guys to be tough. I just thought we got out-toughed last game. They just played harder than us and I know what we are capable of, capable of playing hard,” Walker said after Game 5. “It’s a skill and a lot of our guys have that skill and that ability. I was checking everyone’s heart and it showed — big time.”
The Celtics certainly weren’t “out-toughed” on Monday night, setting the tone on defense early and quickly stomping out any chance of the Raptors winning a third straight game. Boston was aggressive throughout the first half and took a 27-point lead into the locker room. Toronto made some runs in the second half, but never got closer than 17 points.
And after saying he wasn’t aggressive enough in Game 4, attempting just nine shots, Walker was in attack-mode for most of Monday night. He made eight of his 15 shots attempts for 21 points and dished out a game-high seven assists, once again displaying a perfect balance of scoring himself and setting up his teammates. It was contagious, as the Celtics dished out 23 assists on 38 made baskets.
Walker’s leadership is always on display, and he does it with more than just solid play and that amazing smile of his. He takes responsibility when things don’t go right and has a great way of motivating his teammates without calling anyone out. He is the perfect leader for this Boston team, and now that he’s finally surrounded with some premiere talent, he’s showing it all off on the NBA’s biggest stage.
Walker is now one win away from making it to the Conference Finals for the first time of his career. He knows that he and his Celtics teammates still have a lot of work to do against a talented Raptors team, but he’s ready to do anything that is needed to reach that next level.
“I want to win,” he said. “I’ll do anything it takes to win.”
Another pre-game heart screening probably won’t be necessary, but Dr. Walker will be on call just in case.