Celtics

Celtics-Pacers Takeaways: Kemba Walker's hot, Gordon Hayward's hurt (again)

Celtics-Pacers Takeaways: Kemba Walker's hot, Gordon Hayward's hurt (again)

INDIANAPOLIS -- For the first time in a long time, Kemba Walker had one of those games we saw time and time again in Charlotte.

You know the kind; the ones where he would put the team on his back for most of the night, have a really high scoring night, only to come up short. 

Despite a season-high 44-point night by Walker, it wasn’t enough for them to fend off a fourth-quarter surge by the Indiana Pacers that ended with the Celtics losing 122-117 to the Pacers.

Walker eclipsed the 39 points he scored in his first game back from a neck strain Nov. 27 for his best output as a Celtic.

From the opening tip to the final horn, Walker was in a good rhythm shooting the ball. And he wasn’t limiting himself to scoring in one particular fashion, either. 

Drives to the basket in transition, drives to the basket in half-court sets; pull-up jumpers and, of course, 3-pointers. 

Walker, who was 16-for-28 from the field, was giving the game all that he had to offer on a night when the usual contributors for Boston early on weren’t chipping in at the usual high level he and the Celtics were used to. 

And what made the night all that more impressive for Walker is even with shot after shot falling, you never got the feeling he was forcing the action or taking shots that he normally doesn’t take. 

Still, in the end, Walker’s impressive performance was reminiscent of those big-time performances he delivered in Charlotte which, much like Wednesday, ended with a loss for Walker and his teammates. 

HOLIDAY SEASON

No, this isn’t about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or mistletoe or a peppermint latte from your favorite barista. 

We’re talking about the Indiana Pacers’ family affair better known as Aaron and Justin Holiday, teammates this season for Indy and brothers for life. 

They did their part in trying to ruin this nice run the Celtics (17-6) are on with some strong play at both ends of the floor that time and time again either helped extend a Pacers run or slow down a C's surge. They finished with a combined 35 points (18 for Aaron, 17 for Justin) on 15-for-23 shooting.

Limiting the impact of the bench was not something the Celtics should have been overly concerned with against the Pacers, who came in averaging just 31 points per game from its reserves, which ranks in the bottom 10 of the NBA this season. 

Keeping the backups from going off was a problem for the Celtics against Indiana, and if they’re not careful, it will be an issue Thursday night when they face the Philadelphia 76ers, who, like the Pacers, have a bench that doesn’t generate a ton of points. Still, as we saw on Wednesday night, it could be an issue. 

FREE THROWS

The final numbers didn’t tell the true story of how dominant the Pacers were from the free-throw line. Cashing in from the charity stripe was instrumental in Indiana going into the half with the lead and would later be a major factor down the stretch. 

Indiana was 30-for-36 from the line compared to the Celtics who were 17-for-22, the kind of differential that proved to be huge in a game that was so nip-and-tuck for most of the night. 

Keeping that margin close will be huge on Thursday night against a Sixers team that ranks among the league leaders in free throw attempts per game. 

GORDON HAYWARD

It seems like Gordon Hayward’s luck when it comes to whacky injuries is alive and well. He had nine points on 4-for-8 shooting against the Pacers, but left in the third quarter after taking a hard palm to the nose from Doug McDermott that sent him to the locker room for the rest of the game. 

He’s just been back two games after having missed about a month following a left-hand injury. 

It’s unclear the extent of Hayward’s injury, which comes at a time when the Celtics are already down Marcus Smart (eye infection) and Robert Williams III (hip), with no clear sense of when either will return. 

With both Smart and Williams’ status for Thursday night against Philly unclear, the possibility that Boston will be without all those two and Hayward will make an already daunting challenge that much tougher and put the C's 10-game home winning streak in legit jeopardy. 

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-76ers, which tips off Thursday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Tommy have the call at 8 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Celtics guard Kemba Walker earns All-Star starter nod over Kyrie Irving

Celtics guard Kemba Walker earns All-Star starter nod over Kyrie Irving

The NBA's All-Star Game starters for 2020 were revealed on Thursday night. And the Boston Celtics will have one this year, Kemba Walker.

This will be Walker's second consecutive All-Star start and his fourth appearance overall since entering the league in 2011.

Walker just edged out former Celtic Kyrie Irving for a spot in the East's backcourt. Irving led Walker for a majority of the fan voting process but Walker made the push to make the starting lineup by finishing first in player and media voting while Irving finished sixth in both categories.

And Walker getting the nod over Irving definitely makes sense. 

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

Irving has slightly better numbers than Walker -- Irving is averaging 26.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 6.9 assists per game while Walker is averaging 21.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 5.0 assists -- but Irving has only played in 15 games this season.

And the Brooklyn Nets are just 5-10 in those contests and currently sit in the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.

Meanwhile, the Celtics have a 26-12 record with Walker in the lineup and the team has the third-best point differential in the NBA. They're sitting in the East's fourth seed as of this writing, but they're only 1.5 games out of the second spot, a spot that they held down with regularity before a recent losing streak knocked them down a peg.

Because of this, Walker probably deserved the nod over Irving. But in the lead-up to the announcement, Walker didn't seem too concerned with locking up a starting spot in a recent interview with NBC Sports Boston's Chris Forsberg.

"It'd be cool. Don't get it twisted, that's always a huge accomplishment and a huge honor. But you know, that's not something where I'm like just dying over, you know," Walker said. I got my opportunity last year obviously it was in Charlotte with the team I was playing for. It was really cool to start for the city and the organization.

"But for this year, it's whatever. Whoever gets it, gets it. Much respect to whoever gets it."

That certainly sounds like the Kemba that Celtics fans have come to know and love over the course of the past sixth months.

And Walker was actually more concerned with getting some of his teammates to the All-Star Game and he spent some time talking up Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, as you see below in the full conversation with Forsberg.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Magic, which begins Friday at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Jayson Tatum (groin), Jaylen Brown (ankle) questionable vs. Magic, Enes Kanter (hip) out

Jayson Tatum (groin), Jaylen Brown (ankle) questionable vs. Magic, Enes Kanter (hip) out

Last Monday night, the Boston Celtics played with their preferred starting five for what felt like a long time. And as a result, they were able to crush the Los Angeles Lakers by 32 points. 

But with the week now coming to a close, the C's are banged up once again.

Ahead of their Friday night matchup with the Orlando Magic, the Celtics are dealing with injuries to two starters and one of their top bench contributors. Enes Kanter has already been ruled out while Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are both questionable.

Kanter's absence will certainly be felt by the C's. He has been a key bench contributor this season, averaging 9.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. And in his past eight games, he is averaging 12.4 points and 8.4 rebounds.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

As for Tatum, he suffered the groin injury in the second half of the Celtics' Wednesday-night win over the Memphis Grizzlies. Being questionable is good news for him, as it indicates that even if he misses Friday night's game, the issue shouldn't be a long-term one.

Brown is dealing with an ankle sprain that kept him out of the team's win against the Grizzlies. He has missed three of the team's last four games because of the ankle issue and a sprained right thumb.

The Celtics will likely rely more on Gordon Hayward and Marcus Smart if Tatum and/or Brown can't play. But they'll be hopeful at least one of the two can play.

At center, Daniel Theis will see more minutes than usual with Vincent Poirier being the lone true big behind Theis. The C's could look to play smaller with Grant Williams getting minutes at the five and could also explore calling up Tacko Fall from the G League to provide some depth at center.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Magic, which begins Friday at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.