Kemba Walker has been raising eyebrows in the NBA season's first month., especially Kyrie Irving's. Walker matched up opposite Irving and the Celtics on Monday night, and ended up dropping 43 efficient points (14-of-25, and 7-of-13 on threes) in a 117-112 win. It was almost as if Walker had heard Irving pontificating on the NBA's lack of defense this season to the Boston Globe's estimable Gary Washburn prior to the game.
"I think not a lot of defense is being played," he said. "Teams are scoring like it’s the 1960s or ’70s. It’s 132 to 112, 142 to 121. There’s no defense. There’s just none. We got into a Utah-Boston game and it’s [98-86] and you can see the difference in effort in every single night, which I get from an NBA player’s standpoint, the amount of games we play, but sometimes you have to make guys miss."
"We’re all NBA players and if you see an open look at the rim, I’m pretty sure we’re going to knock it down over 50 percent of the time if it’s wide open," he continued. "More or less no defense and effort. That’s what it comes down to; nobody should be scoring that many points."
Kyrie wasn't one-sided with his complaint. He gave due to the players dropping buckets, but also said teams had to adapt if they were going to compete against the new-found offensive fireworks.
"You have to give credit to the offensive players for making the shots but also I think the emphasis on making double-teaming and just getting the ball out of someone’s hands," he said. "Just doing the little things to help your teammates guard a great player or a great team, just a total team effort and team collective activity to kind of limit those high scoring games."
From early in the ensuing game, when Kyrie was matched up against the high-scoring Kemba, that he—and later Marcus Smart—struggled to contain Charlotte's point guard. They got lost going under screens, or misplaced him when they switched with bigs like Al Horford and weren't fast enough switching back. In all, it was a bad defensive performance by the team and individual, exactly what Kyrie was talking about before the game. While it's easy to claim hypocrisy, we just think Kemba is that good. The Celtics have the no. 1 defense in the Association, giving up a league-low 102.1 points per 100 possessions, so it's not like they don't have the players, coach and scheme to prevent potential scorers.
After dropping 43 in the win over Boston, Walker is now leading the league in scoring at 29.6 points per game. On Saturday, he notched career-high 60 against the Sixers in a brutal overtime loss. Kyrie is right about the defense in the NBA, especially this season, which has featured a number of high-scoring individual performances early on. But it's easier to talk about getting stops then it is to actually do so, especially against a player like Walker.