It didn’t take very long before Kemba Walker meshed with his new teammates in Boston, which is why the Celtics are off to a hot start at 6-1, and are leading the Eastern Conference.The Celtics lost the first game of the season to the Philadelphia 76ers, but won six in a row since then.
The Los Angeles Lakers (6-1) lead the Western Conference with the same record as the Celtics. In the West, only the LA Clippers (6-3) and the Lakers have six wins.
The Milwaukee Bucks (6-2) and Miami Heat (6-2) are the only other teams in the Eastern Conference with six wins. The Celtics were picked to finish second in the Atlantic Division, behind the Philly Sixers.
The only knock against the hot start has been the Celtics’ lack of competition. The Celtics beat the New York Knicks twice, and the Cleveland Cavs and Charlotte Hornets once each. Then again, the Celtics defeated both the Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks in their most difficult matchups of the season.
It’s a small sample size, but the Celtics are undefeated at home this season at 3-0. Brad Stevens wanted to re-establish the Celtics as one of the best home teams in the NBA. They won 28 games at home last year, but would love to win 30-plus in Boston this season.
During the halcyon Larry Bird days, opponents cringed when they saw the Celtics on the schedule because they knew they’d have to play on the parquet floor of the old Boston Garden surrounded by ghosts of Celtics’ greats, while blocking out obscenities from vicious fans.
Welcome to Beantown, Kemba Walker
The Celtics lost Kyrie Irving, but they gained Kemba Walker. Walker had a tearful, but heartfelt, welcome back to Charlotte the other night when fans showered him with a standing ovation. They loved Kemba in Charlotte, but fans understood the reality of the business; Michael Jordan does not spend big bucks to retain veterans. Walker wanted to stay behind in Charlotte, but he deserved to get paid a max contract worth $221 million (over five seasons). The Celtics had no problems paying Walker his asking price, and now they’re in first place as the team to beat in the Eastern Conference.
Walker averages 24.3 points per game. His scoring is down a tick (25.8 ppg last season), but he doesn’t have to drop 40 every night to keep the Hornets in the game. Walker leads the Celtics in scoring, but there are three players averaging 20-plus.
Gordon Hayward (20.3 ppg, 7.9 rebounds, 4.6 assists) is looking like his old self when he exploded for a career-high 39 points against the Cavs.
Hayward struggled at times last year, but he was still a season removed from breaking his leg. He leads the Celtics in shooting at 56.4 percent during the team’s hot start. He’s also knocking down 44.4 percent of his three-pointers.
Jayson Tatum (21.6 ppg) is second on the team in scoring. Tatum leads the Celtics in long-range shooting, averaging 45.8 percent from beyond the arc. He’s hitting 3.1 treys per game.
Boston Role Players, Tacko Fall Debut
Jaylen Brown, in his fourth year out of Cal, missed three games this season with a leg infection. When he’s played, Brown averages 16 ppg for fourth-best on the team. He’s hauling down 6.3 rebounds per night.
Marcus Smart started three games and came off the bench in the other four, logging 30 minutes per game. Smart is averaging 9.6 ppg, but his defense has been phenomenal. Coach Stevens has assigned Smart to defend anyone from 1 to 5. Yeah, the 6-foot-3 Smart has been guarding seven footers without any hassles.
“This is the part about Marcus that I love,” said Brad Stevens. “His fire. his competitiveness.”
Daniel Theis (5.0 ppg) doesn’t score much, but combined with Robert Williams III, the two average 10 points and 11.5 rebounds per night.
Rookie point guard Carsen Edwards, a second-round draft pick out of Purdue, averages 4.8 points per game in only 13 minutes off the bench per night.
Rookie giant Tacko Fall saw action in only one game this season. The fan favorite has yet to see time in Boston. Fall saw action in a garbage-time blowout over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. The crowd at MSG went nuts when Fall entered the game and scored a bucket.
Back-to-back dunks from Tacko Fall ☘️ pic.twitter.com/LVzv32QDlf
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 27, 2019
The Boston Celtics are 8-1 odds to win the 2020 NBA Championship, according to William Hill.