Abby Chin

Kemba Walker was blown away by TD Garden debut

Kemba Walker was blown away by TD Garden debut

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Knicks, which tips off Saturday at 7 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 7:30 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

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The Boston Celtics were able to earn their first win of the season in their home opener. Playing against the reigning NBA champion Toronto Raptors, the Celtics were able to power themselves to victory thanks to a strong fourth quarter. In the period, they turned a six-point deficit into a six-point lead, and Kemba Walker was a big part of that.

Walker scored 11 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter and his effort on the defensive end helped to spark the team. But Walker himself was sparked by the TD Garden crowd.

"It was everything I imagined," Walker said of his home debut to NBC Sports Boston's Abby Chin. "These fans are incredible. So much energy in the building. (In the) first half, I felt the energy. I was a little bit hype and the adrenaline was pumping. I just needed to calm down, but man, I just have to -- I can't say enough about my teammates, my coaching staff. They just kept me up. They kept my confidence up, kept telling me to be myself. Keep shooting the ball. I really appreciate those guys for sure."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQkMBKC9OLY

The Celtics certainly played well, and they moved the ball aggressively in the fourth quarter and often were able to find the open man for a shot. They finished the day with 21 assists but even more impressively, they generated extra offensive possessions by playing hard and grabbing 21 offensive rebounds.

After the game, Walker said that the Celtics learned something about themselves expressed confidence in the team's performance.

"We're resilient," Walker said. "We're tough. You know, we have guys that just play basketball. We play together. When things aren't going well, we stay together. That's what's important. There's going to be a lot of ups and downs this season but the thing that's most important is us just staying together all year."

The Celtics were also strong on the defensive side of the ball, creating 23 turnovers and drawing a number of offensive fouls. Walker managed to total two steals and two blocks and he credited his effort on that end of the floor for helping break him out of a shooting slump in the second half.

"You know, sometimes when you struggle on offense, all it takes is a few plays defensively to kinda get you going," Walker said. "I was struggling. I didn't want to stop, I didn't want to let me offense dictate my defense."

We'll soon see if Walker can continue to make strides as the season continues. The Celtics will travel to New York to take on the Knicks on Saturday and they will hope to click as well as they did in Friday night's game.

NBA Highlights: Celtics come from behind to beat Raptors>>>

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Celtics Talk Podcast: Season preview; breaking down the opener vs. 76ers

Celtics Talk Podcast: Season preview; breaking down the opener vs. 76ers

Our crew that covers the Celtics has you covered as we preview the season and look ahead to Wednesday's opener in Philly against the Sixers.

2:00 - Kyle Draper, Chris Forsberg, A. Sherrod Blakely, and Brian Scalabrine give their expectations for the Boston Celtics this season. 

6:00 - How big of a year is this for Jaylen Brown? What do we see happening with his contract? 

9:00 - What expectations do we have for Jayson Tatum?

12:00 - What level can we expect Gordon Hayward to return to?

14:00 - Abby Chin hosts ‘Rookie Watch’. Where our crew debates which rookie will have the biggest impact for the Celtics this season. 

19:30 - Paul Hudrick covers the Sixers for NBC Sports Philadelphia. He joins the crew to preview the Celtics-76ers opening night matchup. (21:00) How does Al Horford fit into the mix with the 76ers? (22:00) How much pressure is on Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid? (27:00) How do people in Philadelphia feel about the Boston Celtics this season?

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Countdown to Celtics Camp: Record predictions for the 2019-20 campaign

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

Countdown to Celtics Camp: Record predictions for the 2019-20 campaign

Entering training camp a year ago, expectations were sky-high for the Celtics. Most pundits considered them the team to beat in the East. Vegas fancied Boston as a 59-win team, the second-highest win total behind only Golden State. And a Finals matchup between those two teams was far from a pipe dream.

Fast forward a year and expectations have been tempered. The Celtics lost a pair of All-Stars this summer in Kyrie Irving and Al Horford and, despite signing another in Kemba Walker, the team finds itself widely considered a Tier 2 team in the East behind projection darlings Milwaukee and Philadelphia.

So what happens this year? Do the Celtics go back to being the sort of overachievers that have defined Brad Stevens’ coaching career? Will a younger roster struggle to simply meet even the lowered expectations of this season?

To wrap up Week 1 of our Countdown to Camp series, we asked our NBC Sports Boston panel to look into their crystal balls and predict not only Boston’s final win-loss record but how far they’d advance in the playoffs.

The  Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook projects Boston at 49.5 wins this season. The Bucks (58) and Sixers (55) top the Westgate projections and the next five teams all reside in the west. 

The Celtics went 49-33 last season, settling for the fourth seed in the East. They swept the Victor Oladipo-less Pacers in Round 1 but bowed to the top-seeded Bucks in five games in Round 2.

When you consider that Westgate’s four lowest win totals reside in the East (Knicks, Wizards, Cavaliers, Hornets) and seven East teams sit below 40 wins, it feels like the Celtics should reasonably win 50+ games despite the roster changes.

So we’ll put the Celtics at 52 wins and a spot in the East semifinals. That seeding would likely mean a second-round matchup jousting with either Giannis’ Bucks or Embiid’s Sixers and Boston’s frontcourt development might dictate just how competitive those series could be. Remember, too, Stevens tends to produce his best magic when you least expect it.

The irony, of course, is that the Celtics could win 49 games this season and get bounced in Round 2 again but if they develop chemistry and are more enjoyable to watch then last year’s gang, then Celtics fans will be far more OK with that script playing out a second time — well, so long as players make the sort of strides that suggest more is possible in the coming years.

Abby Chin: 50-32 Eastern Conference Finals

I think purely based on better chemistry and grit, this team will improve on last year’s win total. And, I’ll bank on some luck in the playoff bracket. Maybe with injuries, or regular season Al Horford, Philly and Milwaukee fall to the 2 and 3 seed so the Celtics could avoid them in the first couple rounds.

 

A. Sherrod Blakely: 50-32, East Finals

I'm gonna keep the cookies on the bottom shelf with this one. They are a better team (team not individuals) than they're going to get credit for, and they have a roster that's full of talent with a huge chip on their shoulders from the coach on down. This group will play harder, smarter and win a lot of games they probably shouldn't and by doing so, keep Celtics fans extremely happy all season.

Max Lederman: 51-31, lose in 2nd round

Before last season the Celtics have always overachieved under Brad Stevens. I expect a return to that with lowered expectations this season. The Celtics also had their worst record vs winning teams last year since Brad's 2nd season. They should put up a better fight this season.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.