The Boston Celtics have rebounded from a season-opening loss with four straight wins — largely by riding the hot hand of Kemba Walker and his three-game streak of 32 or more points.
Walker aims to continue his scoring surge on Tuesday as the Celtics bid for their fifth straight victory in the opener of a three-game road trip against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The 29-year-old Walker scored 23 of his 33 points in the second half in Boston’s 104-102 victory over the New York Knicks on Friday. He also collected six rebounds for the fourth consecutive contest and added five assists to put him in exclusive company.
Walker is the first Boston player to record 30-plus points, at least six rebounds and as many as four assists in three straight games since 10-time All-Star Paul Pierce accomplished the feat in 2002, per the Celtics’ official stats feed on Twitter.
“His ability to get to the line, you see when he draws contact, he draws contact,” Boston coach Brad Stevens told reporters of Walker, who made all 14 of his shots from the free-throw line on Friday.
“… I mean he’s a tough guy. I said this yesterday; he takes hits, he makes foul shots, he’s available every day, and he got two or three of the biggest rebounds of the night for us. Running in transition he jumped up over everybody one time. So, I’d say he’s a tough guy. I’m glad he’s here.”
While Walker is with the Celtics after signing as a free agent in the offseason, Jayson Tatum has been in Boston since the club selected him with the third overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.
Tatum capped his 24-point performance on Friday by sinking a turnaround jumper with 1.3 seconds remaining for the winner.
“It felt good,” the 21-year-old Tatum said, per The Athletic. “The coaches trust me in that situation and I kind of made eye contact with Marcus (Smart) before the play, like, ‘I’m open throw it to me.’ So, just earning my teammates’ trust and being out there and taking that shot.”
Tatum also felt good last season, helping Boston complete a four-game sweep of Cleveland by averaging 18.5 points and 4.5 rebounds.
The Cavaliers enter Tuesday’s tilt on the heels of back-to-back losses, the second of which coming on their home court for the first time in three games this season.
Kevin Love, who collected a season-high 29 points and eight rebounds, admitted Cleveland had no answer for Luka Doncic in a 131-111 setback to Dallas on Sunday. Doncic recorded his third triple-double of the season after finishing with 29 points, 15 assists and 14 rebounds.
“That’s on us to improve our defense,” Cavaliers coach John Beilein told reporters. “They’re really a tough team to match up with and we had no answers for them because of their height at the guard and big man positions.”
Love, who has recorded five double-doubles in six games this season, had 10 points and 11 rebounds in his lone contest versus the Celtics in 2018-19.
Center Tristan Thompson also has five double-doubles to his credit this season after collecting 11 points and 12 rebounds versus the Mavericks.
–Field Level Media