Walker shines as Celtics beat short-handed Nets
Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving cast a long shadow, but it was Boston guard Kemba Walker who starred Wednesday in the Celtics’s 121-110 NBA victory over the Nets.
The game at TD Garden would have been Irving’s first game back in Boston since he departed the Celtics as a free agent in the off season.
But he missed a seventh straight game with a shoulder injury — an absence greeted with skepticism by many Boston fans who chanted “Where is Kyrie?” and “Kyrie Sucks!” as the contest got underway.
Around the arena, fans carried signs comparing Irving favorably with Walker — who was back in action five days after he was stretchered off with a neck injury after a scary collision in a loss at Denver.
Walker, who took over Irving’s job in Boston, scored a season-high 39 points.
That included 13 in the third quarter, when Boston rallied from an eight-point deficit with 10:05 to play in the period.
“I was making some shots,” Walker said. “My teammates did a great job of getting me open. It was a great night.
“I was just picking my spots,” he added. “Whenever I had an opportunity to shoot the basketball, I wanted to make it.”
Jaylen Brown scored 22 points and pulled down 10 rebounds and Jayson Tatum added 16 points with nine rebounds for the Celtics, who remained unbeaten in seven home games this season.
Garrett Temple scored 22 points and Joe Harris chipped in 21 for the Nets, who made 21 of 56 three-point attempts.
The Nets led 83-82 with 3:13 remaining in the third, but Boston scored the next nine points. The Celtics took a 104-101 lead into the fourth and ruthlessly pulled away.
Walker said that even without Irving, the Nets provide a strong challenge.
“They play hard,” he said. “Each and every night, every possession, those guys do not quit,” he said. “You have to respect a team like that.”
The Philadelphia 76ers also remained unbeaten at home, improving to 8-0 at Wells Fargo Center with a 97-91 victory over the Sacramento Kings.
Joel Embiid bounced back from an embarrassing scoreless performance in Monday’s loss at Toronto, scoring 33 points and grabbing 16 rebounds.
Embiid, who had missed all 11 shots from the field on Monday and gone 0-for-3 from the free throw line, came out clearly determined to make amends.
He finished the first quarter with six points and eight rebounds and had secured his 10th double-double of the season early in the second period.
The 76ers emerged from a tight second quarter with a 47-46 edge and never trailed after the interval.