If history is any indication, Boston Celtics point guard Kemba Walker could be in for a monster game Tuesday night as the Celtics meet the Dallas Mavericks for the first time this season.
According to Basketball-Reference, over Walker’s last six matchups with Dallas (four while still playing with Charlotte) the 12-year veteran is averaging 27.6 points on 49.1% from the floor and 42.1% from behind the arc –– all well-above his career averages of 19.8, 41.8% and 36.0%, respectively.
And if you take the liberty of removing Walker’s clunker against Dallas in January of 2019 (11 points on 4-for-15 field goals and 0-for-5 from three) his numbers go up even further: 31.2, 51.9% and 46.1%.
Most recently –– and importantly –– Boston scored victories in both of their meetings with Dallas last season, games in which Walker lit up the stat sheet. He averaged 30.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists while shooting 51.4% from the field and 54.2% from three. His +/- in those two games averaged +13.5.
Walker arrived in Boston from Charlotte prior to the start of the 2019-20 season via a trade that sent point guard Terry Rozier to the Hornets. The four-time All-Star Walker is in the second year of a four-year $140.79 million deal that was part of a sign-and-trade in the lead up to the Boston trade.
A Setback in The Big Easy
A win against Dallas Tuesday would be a sight for sore eyes to Boston fans and Walker alike, following the team’s soul-crushing overtime loss to New Orleans Sunday afternoon. The Celtics fell despite being up 24 points midway through the third quarter, constituting the biggest second-half comeback in Pelicans franchise history.
Walker did not play well against New Orleans, shooting 5-21 from the field, including 1-12 from three. His dismal shooting was a setback for the UConn product following solid performances in Boston’s previous four games, particularly an electrifying 28-point, six-assist effort against Atlanta on February 19.
Before the Pelicans game and in light of his recent good play, it appeared that Walker, who has often struggled mightily after beginning the season late due to knee issues, was on the cusp of regaining the form and consistency that made him a 4-time All-Star with Charlotte. Indeed, ever since Walker’s return, Boston’s president of basketball operations, Danny Ainge, has preached patience. Back on February 11, discussing Walker’s shaky play with Toucher & Rich, Ainge had this to say:
“Obviously, we would like for him to be playing better and making more shots. But you know, even the best players got through stretches where they struggle to make shots. I feel like the best news is that Kemba has just been healthy and hasn’t regressed, so that’s the most positive.
I feel like we will be able to figure out ways for him to contribute offensively and get better with that as time goes on because even though it is a sample of, what, I don’t know, 10 games now, Kemba—that’s not a lot especially in this world we are living in with very little practice and time to really get cohesive. It’s really not a lot of time.
He looks good physically. I like what I see in Kemba’s movement, I think it’s better than it was in the bubble and in the playoffs last year, I think he’s worked hard to get the strength back in his knee. I don’t think it is as much physical as, a lot of it is, there is such a focus on trying to shut him down. We just need to do a better job of getting him better shots.
We like Kemba. We know what he’s capable of doing.”
Though it appeared Ainge’s optimism was finally coming to fruition, the Pelicans fiasco has, at least temporarily, put the brakes on Walker’s triumphant return. A big game against Dallas, however, could get the train rolling again.
Mavs Come in Hot
The Mavericks, currently sitting at 9th in the Western Conference and led by dynamic young superstar Luka Doncic, enter Tuesday’s matchup on a hot streak, winners of six of their last eight games. In fact, streaks have been the defining feature of the Mavs season so far.
After starting the season 0-2 with losses to the Phoenix and the Lakers, the Mavericks demolished a Kawhi Leonard-less Clippers team 124-73 and then proceed to win five of their next seven.
But a close defeat to the Milwaukee Bucks in mid-January began a disastrous stretch of losses –– nine in eleven games, including six straight from January 23 through February 1 –– until finally breaking the cycle with a win against Atlanta on February 3. During the losing streak time, Doncic shot 31.1% from three and failed to reach 40% from the field three times.
The Atlanta win, however, has apparently put Dallas and Doncic back on track. Over the last eight games, according to Basketball-Reference, the 21-year-old is averaging 32.6 points on 49.7% shooting from the field and 42.2% from behind the arc, and has not gone below the 40% field goal threshold a single time.
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