By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
With their second and third leading scorers sidelined due to injury, the Celtics got a superstar-caliber performance from their All-Star point guard en route to a 109-98 win over the Orlando Magic on Friday night.
With Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown unavailable, Kemba Walker exploded for 37 points on 12 of 23 shooting. His 19 points in the second quarter helped the Celtics erase an early 16-point deficit.
In addition to Walker’s impressive performance, the Celtics ability to reverse their fortune on the glass was key in the win. After being out-rebounded 21-12 to start the game, the Celtics outclassed the Magic on the boards the rest of the way, finishing down just one in the category (45-44 ORL). Gordon Hayward led the effort with a season-high 14 rebounds, the most he’s had in a game since joining the Celtics.
The Celtics had gotten into a habit of starting slow in recent weeks, but that wasn’t the case Friday night. The Cs jumped out to a 14-7 lead on 6 of 7 shooting going into the first TV timeout.
Coming out of that timeout, the Magic found their rhythm, namely on the boards. Without their top three rebounders, the Celtics got dominated early, allowing a 21-4 run that included seven second-chance points for the Magic. Boston shot 1-13 from the field during that stretch. Vincent Poirier came in and seemed to stabilize things, the Celtics trailed just 30-24 after one quarter.
The start of the second quarter resembled the majority of the first as the Magic came out with a 12-4 run, forcing Brad Stevens to call a timeout just three minutes in.
That’s when Kemba took over. His 19-point second quarter helped fuel a 13-3 run to close out the half. The All-Star starter posted a game-high 27 in the first half on 10 of 16 shooting. The Celtics went into the locker room slightly behind, 57-53.
Boston battled through a back-and-forth third quarter before re-taking the lead with just over three minutes to go. They worked to a 14-point lead of their own behind five quick fourth quarter points from Walker, who had been held to no points on just one shot in the third.
The Celtics tried to put the Magic away with three-pointers but went cold, allowing Orlando to cut the lead to just six with three and a half minutes left in the game. The Green would hold off a final Magic push to win the game 109-98.
The win is the Celtics third in a row and improves their record to 29-14, good for fourth in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. It is also the 300th of Brad Stevens’ NBA career, good for 5th most all-time among Celtics head coaches.
The team is off tomorrow before playing the middle game of their three-game road trip on Sunday in New Orleans against top-pick Zion Williamson and the Pelicans. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:00 PM. Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell will have the call starting with a 5:30 pregame show on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Hate mail? Let him hear it on Twitter @RealAlexBarth