Warriors general manager Bob Myers summed up everything you need to know about the NBA postseason back at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in 2019.
“The playoffs are nothing like the regular season," Myers explained. "They are two completely different sports…In the playoffs, (a player’s) first move is gone…whatever they know he does well, it’s gone.
“You watch the playoffs, you’ll know who can play basketball. That’s when you evaluate players.”
When Kemba Walker arrived in Boston last summer, there was plenty of uncertainty about the three-time All-Star over what he could be in the postseason. This was a guy who had spent most of his career on a lottery team in Charlotte and had played in just 11 playoff games over eight seasons. The playoff numbers weren’t pretty but the fact that his best teammates in that era were Al Jefferson (past his prime) and Nicolas Batum had to be taken into account when looking at Walker’s pedestrian postseason numbers (20.7 PPG, 39.4 FG%, 1.9/1 AST/TO ratio).
Needless to say, the book was still out on a 30-year-old six-footer and whether he could raise his game in a physical postseason series with his size limitations.
A knee issue that has popped up continuously over the past eight months further heightened those concerns at the beginning of the NBA restart. Walker was put on a plan by team trainers to keep his minutes down so he could strengthen the knee until the Celtics really need him in the postseason.
One month later, the plan has appeared to work through perfection for Walker and the questions about his postseason play have faded away. Walker delivered a game-high 32 points in Game 4, capping a 110-106 Celtics sweep of the 76ers.
It was the third straight game that Walker shot over 50 percent from the field and a performance in which he showed his varied skillset as an offensive player in a high leverage situation. With Gordon Hayward going down, the Celtics needed more from Walker and he’s responded with three straight games of All-Star level play.
Walker’s series stats
3.8/1 AST/TO ratio
93.9 FT (6.3 attempts/G)
The one blip in those stats (3-point shooting) is largely a product of a 1-of-10 start to the series but Walker has snapped out of that funk by going 7-of-17 in his past two games. As his workload has increased, his production has only gotten better.
“I’ve said all along I felt great about our plan,” Brad Stevens said after Game 4. “Give a lot of credit to