BOSTON -- With a commanding 18-point lead with a little more than two minutes to play, Kemba Walker went to the bench for one last time this decade.
As he walked past his teammates, high-fiving them along the way, he was serenaded by the Charlotte Hornets fans still at the game, appreciative of what he meant to them in his eight seasons as a Hornet.
“People are going to react like that forever,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters after Boston's 109-92 New Year's Eve win. “Whether it’s here or Storrs, [Connecticut]…He’s a special guy and an awfully good player. He’s been really good for us.”
And that is what makes Walker’s ovation so special with the Hornets faithful showing their respect for what he meant to the team in his time in Charlotte.
But that’s in the past now.
Walker is with a new team, has a new mission and is showcasing that he’s more than just a high-scoring guard in the NBA but also one who can score a ton while racking up wins in the process.
He was among the Celtics who stood out in the victory over the Hornets (13-23) as Boston (23-8) got back on the winning track after losing at home to Toronto on Saturday.
And so, the Celtics move on to the next decade of play, one that will be led in part by Walker, who closed out 2019 with a strong, 24-point, seven-assist game in Charlotte - a fitting end to the decade as Walker and the Celtics look ahead to bigger and better things in the future.
This was the kind of game that reinforces why Hayward is such an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to Boston’s success this year.
He scored 21 points on an efficient 9-for-14 shooting, hauled down 10 boards for his third double-double this season. He also managed to dish out six assists.
As the Celtics continue to shuffle bodies in and out of the rotation due to injuries, a healthy Hayward provides the kind of comfort that will allow Boston to continue to surge up the standings even at less than full strength.
There is an undeniable growth in Tatum’s game, and it’s not just him scoring more points, either.
He’s doing a much better job of probing defenses for the best shot for himself or others, doing it with a level of patience that we have not seen from him at the level of consistency we’ve seen in recent weeks.
It bodes well for his goals of ascending to being one of the best two-way players in the NBA.
He’s not there yet.
But the ease at which he scored a team-high 24 points on 10-for-18 shooting against Charlotte is impressive.
Earlier this season, Kanter was focused on his younger teammates doing well and gaining some confidence. Well, let’s just say Kanter is being a bit more greedy these days.
Kanter had a double-double of 13 points and 14 rebounds to go with a career-high six blocked shots on Tuesday. According to Elias Sports Bureau, it's the first time a C's reserve has produced those numbers (13 or more points, 14 or more rebounds, six or more blocks) in a game.
Kanter’s play comes at a time when the Celtics are extremely thin at center. He was going to play a major role on this team regardless of who else was available. But to his credit, Kanter has found that nice balance between mentoring the young bigs on the Celtics while still making a major impact with his play.
Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Hawks, which tips off Friday at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike and Tommy have the call at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.