By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Kemba Walker is still not where he — or the Celtics — need him to be for the point guard to make his usual impact on games. But he looked much better during Tuesday night’s win over the Golden State Warriors.READ MORE: CVS Lists Teachers As Eligible For COVID Vaccine Appointments In Massachusetts
Walker shook off an abysmal shooting night against the Lakers on Saturday, when his 1-for-12 showing cost Boston a win in the team’s biggest game of the year. He had a much less abysmal night against Golden State, and it started in the opening minute when Walker drained his first two shots. His first make was one of those Walker step-backs, similar to the shot that would have won the game for Boston on Saturday night.
“It felt good to see the ball go in,” Walker said of his quick start following Boston’s 111-107 win. “But I wanted to be aggressive and I thought last game I wasn’t aggressive. That was the problem. I want to find myself and play the way I know I’m capable of playing.”
Walker would go on to make just four more of his attempts, finishing his night 6-for-18 from the floor. He made just three of his nine three-point attempts, so his shooting efficiency still is not anywhere near where it needs to be.
“I’m not perfect, I wish I was. But after tough ones you just have to find a way to bounce back,” he said. “That’s what this league is all about. That’s what this game is all about. You can never keep your head down. It’s a long season, you know? So many games and possibilities of me having more like that, so I just want to stay positive as best as I can. My teammates and coaching staff are really positive as well.”
Walker can be forgiven for being a little off as the game went on, considering he was tasked with shadowing one of the best scorers in the game in Stephen Curry. Defending Curry was a full team effort, and it didn’t do much as Curry dropped a game-high 38 points on 12-for-21 shooting, but Walker had his fingerprints everywhere else on the Boston win.
He shot just 2-for-8 in the second half, but he dished out five assists during the game, including a pair of key helpers in the fourth quarter. He assisted on Jayson Tatum’s three with 6:48 left that gave the Celtics a 96-94 edge, and then fed Jaylen Brown on his thunderous dunk with four minutes to go to put the Celtics up by 10.
Walker finished with 19 points and seven rebounds to go with those five helpers. He also did not turn the ball over during his 31 minutes of action. Those 31 minutes represent a season-high for the guard, who is clearly still rusty after missing the start of the season.
But Tuesday night saw a different Walker taking the floor. He was aggressive instead of timid, and though he struggled to score under the hoop — even against a Warriors team that lacked a true big man — he was determined not to let Saturday night’s stinker carry over.READ MORE: Wednesday's Child: Siblings Jessica & Orlando
“His spirit was really good. You could tell he was waiting for another chance to play,” said head coach Brad Stevens. “I thought he did a good job; no turnovers, five assists, obviously he scored the ball. I’m sure he would say he would have liked to have shot it better but he looked good. And the other thing is it’s hard to score the ball at an efficient rate if you’re the one that’s assigned to Curry at the start of the game because you’re flying all over the place and you’re just not comfortable, because Curry keeps you uncomfortable all night long.”
After Walker missed a layup in the second quarter, he let out a booming shout in frustration. He was all smiles as he shook his head, because it’s rare that there isn’t a giant smile gracing his face.
“I got faked out. I was frustrated because I felt like I could have just went straight up and got the layup,” he said. “But it happens throughout the game. As far as me around the rim, I can be a lot better. Still trying to get more comfortable, especially stopping. But it will come.”
Walker hasn’t looked like himself in nearly a year, when his left knee started barking. He’s been on a minutes restriction since his return just over two weeks ago, and as Walker struggles, so too has the team. Boston picked up just its second win in the seven games with Walker in the lineup Tuesday night.
But with Marcus Smart out 2-3 weeks, Stevens had no choice but to extend Walker a little bit more against the Warriors. While his shooting efficiency left a lot to be desired, he didn’t hurt the team in the long run, making impacts elsewhere. It was a step in the right direction.
Now we’ll see if he’s ready to make another step on Wednesday night, potentially playing on the second leg of a back-to-back for the first time since returning. Stevens had said that Walker wouldn’t be playing in such games this season, but appears to have softened on that stance, saying after Tuesday’s game that he didn’t know if Walker would play Wednesday.
Walker also didn’t know if he’d be suiting up against the Kings on Wednesday, but he didn’t rule it out.
“Possibly,” he said with a shrug. “We’ll see.”MORE NEWS: Coronavirus In Massachusetts: Today's Developments
You couldn’t see it with a mask covering his face, but there’s a good chance Kemba had a big grin on his face when answering that question.