A. Sherrod Blakely

Kemba Walker's impact on Celtics about more than just scoring

Kemba Walker's impact on Celtics about more than just scoring

BOSTON -- When Kemba Walker arrived in Boston, he came with a well-earned reputation for scoring…a lot. 

In eight seasons, he had already amassed enough points to be the Charlotte Hornets' all-time leading scorer.

Still, as we’ve seen this season, there’s more to Walker’s game than lighting up the scoreboard.

The 119-95 win over Memphis on Wednesday night was one of those games, in which Walker’s play highlighted his ability to impact the game in ways that don’t necessarily show up on the stat sheet. 

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The Grizzlies threw a multitude of defensive looks at Walker, leaving him little choice but to play more off the ball in the hope that the attention paid to him would open things up for his teammates. 

Indeed, those around Walker are benefiting by his presence and poise the past two games, both of which saw the Celtics (29-14) win easily and do so by shooting north of 50 percent from the field. 

“He [Walker] did a good job,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “A couple times, he opened up [Daniel] Theis for shots. He opened up other guys for hand-offs because the defense was so sunk. He set a couple of nice back-screens that we didn’t end up converting but…he’s gonna see so many types of defenses.”

The way Walker adapted to the ever-changing tactics of the Grizzlies defensively, served as a reminder as to why he is a three-time All-Star on the cusp of being a four-time selection for the game next month in Chicago. 

“That’s how you know you’re a really good player, is when people throw you a bunch of different looks,” Stevens said. “He handles it really well.”

Walker, who had eight points on 2-for-9 shooting with four assists, three rebounds and two blocked shots, has embraced the fact that he will have nights when the opposing team will make it tougher than usual for him to score the way he’s accustomed to. 

Rather than forcing the issue, Walker makes contributing in other ways - like setting good screens, making the “hockey assist” or blocking shots - a more central part of his game. 

“We have so many threats on the perimeter,” Walker said. “And you know, every night is not going to be a great night for me. The special thing about this team is, multiple guys can have huge nights. When it’s not my night, it’s just not my night. And I’m definitely willing to accept that.

Walker added, “When I’m not playing at my best offensively, I have to do other things in order to help this team win. I just try to bring enthusiasm, energy, just great leadership to the game.”

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.

Celtics-Grizzlies Takeaways: And the beat(down) goes on, defense fuels another C's blowout

Celtics-Grizzlies Takeaways: And the beat(down) goes on, defense fuels another C's blowout

BOSTON -- Following the Boston Celtics' pummeling of the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday, I asked Gordon Hayward what does it take for the C's to have a few more nights like that. 

“It’s our defense,” he said. “When we’re playing really well, we’re flying around on defense, communicating…and that translates to our offense and overall, we just play better.”

Do. They. Ever.

Boston's defense triggered a 23-2 run in the second quarter that put the Grizzlies in a hole that they simply could never climb out of as the Celtics pulled away for a 119-95 blowout win. 

And to think, just a few days ago there were questions about what's wrong with the Celtics. 

While they are very much a work in progress, a second blowout in as many games against either a title contender (the Lakers) or one of the league's hottest teams (Grizzlies), speaks to how dominant this team can be on any given night regardless of the opponent. 

And while Memphis (20-25) came in with a losing record, this victory was indeed a quality one for Boston considering how well the Grizzlies came in with wins in seven of their previous eight games. 

The decisive win was certainly bolstered by another strong shooting night.

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But this win, much like the Lakers victory, had more to do with the defense playing at a high level. 

And now, the question is no longer about whether the Celtics can play at an elite level against quality teams. 

It has more to do with, can they take that elite defense, efficient shot-making brand of basketball we've seen lately, on the road? 

DANIEL THEIS

In the first half, Daniel Theis channeled his inner-Marcus Smart, delivering an unexpected barrage of 3-pointers before finishing with 14 points on 5-for-7 shooting. 

One of the keys to Memphis’ success of late has been the play of Jaren Jackson Jr., whose inside-outside game puts him among the best young bigs in the NBA. 

Having Theis show he too can knock down long-range shots, as well as score from inside the paint, helped neutralize Jackson’s impact. 

JAYSON TATUM

He was among the better performers in Boston’s blowout win over the Los Angeles Lakers, and seemingly picked up where he left off. 

Tatum led the Celtics with 23 points to go with seven rebounds and four assists before leaving in the third quarter with a groin injury. 

Brad Stevens said after the game that the injury, “didn’t sound like it was too bad. I’m not that concerned.” Stevens said Tatum will be tested again on Thursday.

Similar to what we saw against the Lakers, the timing of Tatum’s scoring was just as important as the final point total. 

Rather than scoring to keep the Grizzlies from getting back into the game, many of Tatum’s baskets added to what was one of the more demoralizing losses for Memphis this season. 

And to Tatum’s credit, it was clear that he had a great feel for what the Celtics needed from him at all times. 

There will be nights when Tatum won’t be nearly as good scoring as we saw on Monday or against the Lakers. 

Still, what we are seeing is his overall growth as a star, showing steady improvement on how to give the game what it needs from him. 

ROOKIE WALL FORMATION

Ja Morant has been absolutely killin’ teams with his explosive scoring which ranks atop rookie leaders this season. 

This is the same guy that dropped 30 points on the Brooklyn Nets and a healthy Kyrie Irving, lit up the Utah Jazz and Donovan Mitchell for 25 recently and dropped a cool 26 on the Houston Rockets and their 1-2 punch of James Harden and Russell Westbrook. 

But the Celtics weren’t in the mood to be the latest team to get lit up by the runaway leader for NBA Rookie of the Year, limiting him to a career-low two points on 1-for-5 shooting. 

The way the Celtics treated Morant provided a snapshot of how Boston treated the entire Grizzlies team; looking like a team that was focused on playing the Memphis team of the moment (winners of seven of eight) rather than one with a below-.500 record. 

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.

What's Tacko Fall's reaction to his surprising NBA All-Star vote showing

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What's Tacko Fall's reaction to his surprising NBA All-Star vote showing

With Celtics fan favorite Tacko Fall still hanging in at sixth place in the second round of NBA All-Star voting results that came out this week, he was reluctant to talk about the attention it has gotten him.

On the latest edition of the "Celtics Talk Podcast", NBC Sports Boston Celtics Insider Chris Forsberg said, "partly, he doesn't know how to react to it," when he recalled asking Fall about his surprise showing of more than 500,000 votes despite only having totaled 21 minutes in four NBA games and splitting time between the G League in Maine and Boston.

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Forsberg recalling his conversation comes at about the 30-minute mark, with fellow Insider A. Sherrod Blakely and Kyle Draper weighing in. 

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.

"I feel bad because he's in a tough spot," Forsberg said. "He's had his coach come out and say ultimately that he doesn't deserve it [Brad Stevens actually said "I don't love it" when asked about Fall's All-Star votes last week]. Ultimately, it 's a popularity contest."

Forsberg said as he ended his conversation with Fall about it, the 7-foot-5 center from Senegal who has become a cult figure of sorts, told him one last thing, "Next year, I'm going to earn it." 

Hear more from Blakely, Draper, and Forsberg about the C's recent struggles, Danny Ainge's potential trade targets and ore in the latest episode of the "Celtics Talk Podcast", which drops weekly as part of the NBC Sports Boston podcast network.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Pelicans-Celtics, which tips off Saturday at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike and Scal have the call at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.