By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Kemba Walker’s first night as a Celtic was one to forget, as his offensive game never got going in a 107-93 loss to the Sixers.
You could argue that it bottomed out (even if it was first game with the Celtics), as Walker dropped four of his 18 attempts, and had just one of his six three-point attempts drop en route to a 12-point night in 34:15 of action in enemy territory. For additional perspective on that front, Walker had just eight games with fewer than 13 points throughout all of last year, meaning you had a one-in-10 chance of seeing Walker be this much of a non-factor, really. These nights were rare.
But it was in the second half where the wheels truly fell off Walker’s debut in Celtic Green, as he dropped just one of his (team-high) nine field goal attempts, and missed his lone free throw attempt on the way to a minus-15 for the half.
“I thought I got my shots, the shots I love to take. I thought I got to my spots. I just missed,” Walker said after the loss (via NBC Sports Boston’s Chris Forsberg) to Ben Simmons and the Sixers. “Kind of routine shots, shots that I work on and shots that I’ve been making over the course of my career. But it’s the first one.”
The struggles piled up, and erased what was an otherwise strong start, with Walker showing off his handles and making Matisse Thybulle look foolish on the way to a bucket (and a foul).
Kemba with the crossover before he hangs in the air for the two ???? pic.twitter.com/i84fpcvjRf— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) October 24, 2019
But, as Walker said, it’s the first game, and the good news is that it can only get better from here.
Here are some other thoughts and notes from a 107-93 loss to the Sixers…
I’m just now getting annoyed with Al Horford’s move to the Sixers
While I’m not gonna write Al Horford a love letter (Sean Sylver is kinda weird, but I’m not sure what I was expecting from someone who can do a spot-on Macho Man Randy Savage impersonation), I didn’t really have a burning hatred — or even a mild dislike — for his decision to chase some money and a ring at this point in his career. His knees are on borrowed time, and if the Celtics were going to take a step back, it only made sure for Horford to find his next best chance at winning. I hardly care that Horford chose the Sixers, too, to be honest. “Good for him,” seemed to be my prevailing thought the whole time.
…Then I got a look at Al in Philly Blue, and I officially hate it.
I don’t know if it was Al ringing the bell (I’d say go to hell, Sixers, but Philadelphia is hell), or the Celtics not having their Embiid Stopper like they did with No. 42 in green, but it really bothered me seeing Horford in a Sixers uniform. I mean, he could have gone literally anywhere else with the exception of the Lakers and you would have loved it.
Instead he picked like the one team that’s going to have multiple knife-fights with the Celtics for Atlantic positioning.
Just go to Dallas, maaaaaaaaaaaan.
The frontcourt could be an issue for the Celtics
It might not be fair to just this based on a head-to-head with the Sixers (I’m pretty sure the Sixers’ entire roster is comprised of Slendermen-like wingspans), but driving to the basket seemed to be a massive issue for the Celtics in this loss. It seemed that every time the Celtics thought about it, they were stopped and forced into an ugly turnover or loose ball. It led to a 58-44 points in the paint advantage for the Sixers, and the C’s were also out-rebounded by a staggering 62-41 mark.
This won’t be the first time that these Celtics, who are loaded on wings but short on bigs, battle these issues in 2019-20.
(And before you throw his size 22 shoes out there, keep in mind that 7-foot-6 center Tacko Fall, who missed Wednesday’s game due to a concussion, can only be on the NBA roster for 45 days this year, as he is on a two-way contract.)
The positives, simplified
- Gordon Hayward looked like Gordon Hayward for probably the first time since joining the Celtics in 2017. I’ve come to terms with the fact that Hayward’s burst is probably never going to be the same, but I thought his offensive touch and willingness to drive to the hoop was there, and it resulted in some points on the board. Hayward led all C’s shooters with 25 points in the losing effort, and that was without attempting a single three-pointer in his 35:11 of play.
- Jaylen Brown probably won’t get called for four fouls in the first half again unless he starts full-on tackling people.
- Carsen Edwards’ first NBA game jitters should be gone. Edwards was a lethal sharpshooter throughout the preseason, but never seemed to find his shot in Wednesday’s loss, finishing with just one make on five attempts off the bench.
- The Celtics got bullied around the court throughout the second half, but still were within striking distance for extended stretches. Correct the free throw mistakes and find some spacing out there and you’re gonna be in more games than not.