By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
“Andtwine” Walker’s 4th Quarter Performance Helps Miami Defeat Host Boston
When he made his “prodigal son” return to Boston last year after being traded from the doldrums of Atlanta, many believed (hoped) that he was going to get the chance to finish his career as a Celtic, and have the opportunity to bring Boston its 17th championship. But Danny Ainge had other plans for the Green, and it didn’t work out the way ‘Toine and supporters of ‘Toine thought (hoped) it would. On Wednesday when Boston hosted Miami, Boston’s former Employee Number 8 checked into the game with 4:21 remaining in the first quarter wearing his fourth uniform in four years, and received another “welcome home” ovation from 18,624 live witnesses.BOSTON—It still doesn’t seem right to see Antoine Walker in any other uniform than that of the Boston Celtics.
“(Boston) fans have been terrific, said Walker after the game. “The fans in Boston have treated me real well so it’s great. They appreciated what I did here and tried to do for seven and a half years. I enjoy that.”
He couldn’t have fully enjoyed his play in the first three quarters of the game against his old Celtics though. Walker seemed eager to get his touches early when he substituted into the game for James Posey, but the ball simply didn’t move his way. Surprisingly, in those 4 minutes and 21 seconds that Walker played in the opening frame, he did not attempt a shot, and if it weren’t for the one foul he recorded, he would’ve had a donut all across the stat sheet at the end of the first quarter. In the second quarter, Walker unsuccessfully attempted three shots from the field, two of which came from beyond the arc, and was still scoreless by the end of the third frame (no-for-four from the field by the end of the third quarter).
“I think early in the game I didn’t get the looks that I wanted,” assessed Walker. “And I kind of rushed a couple early. Usually coming off the bench I always try to get a layup or something to get myself going. It’s hard to come up cold and take a three so usually I try to do that.”
And a layup early in the final frame is exactly what got Antoine going. Walker’s first field goal came after another former Celtic, Gary Payton, blocked Delonte West’s baseline three-point attempt. Walker recovered the loose ball, drove the length of the court, and finished with a layup to the right side (68-79 Miami).
That shot sparked a fourth quarter assault by the player who is now Miami’s Employee Number 8, and Antoine turned into Andtwine in the fourth quarter, as he hit three shots from beyond the arc in the last 6:50 of regulation, his last three-pointer was a dagger with 55 seconds left that put Miami up by six (94-100).
I told him to keep shooting,” said Shaquille O’Neal after the game. “His first couple of threes were off. But in the fourth quarter, I knew they were going to double off his spot so I just told him to go to a spot, and I’ll put the ball right where he needs it. ‘Toine hit some big shots. He hit a big three at the end that put (the Celtics) away.”
“In the fourth quarter, I just told myself to be aggressive,” added Andtwine. “And I just stayed aggressive. They were doubling (Shaq) tonight a lot so somebody else had to step up and make shots.”
And make shots is just what Andtwine did as he shot 5-for-7 (3-for-5 from beyond the arc) from the field in the fourth quarter. “To become a good player in this league or to be a pro you got to have the confidence in your abilities, so that’s just how I’ve been my whole career. Taking tough shots and dealing with the consequences.”
The only person in the building who seemed to think that Antoine played pretty well during the first three quarters was Miami coach, Pat Riley. “I thought he was playing good. He was missing shots when he was getting to the rim, but I thought he did a great job in our pick-and-roll defense,” said Riley. “He was showing real hard. He was getting back. He was staying on Pierce a count longer in some situations. It helped us. We got ahead by nine or ten points. And then he got on a roll. He made two or three big shots for us. That’s why he’s here.”
Then again, Riley also thought Miami did a good job guarding Paul Pierce, who, once again, put the team on his shoulders, and did an outstanding job of putting Boston in a position to win the game. The Celtics captain led the team with 38 points (10-for-22 from the field, 2-for-6 from the deep end, 16-for-18 from the charity stripe) and was virtually unstoppable throughout the night. The Truth’s midrange game was on, and he was getting to the basket at will against the likes of James Posey, Shannon Anderson, and, occasionally, Antoine Walker. “I thought we did a decent job on him to be honest with you,” said Riley when asked about Pierce’s performance. “He and Dwayne Wade are so hard to guard because they’re getting 15 to 20 free throws a game.”
Including Wednesday night’s game, Antoine has recorded four wins and two losses in the six games that he has played against the Celtics, and is averaging 17.1 points versus his old team. Like any other competitor, Antoine always gets amped for playing against his former team, especially at the place he used to call home. “Anytime you come back and beat your old team it has meaning,” admitted the Chi-town native. “It was a good game. They’ve been playing good basketball. They took us to the wire so it was good. And also, it’s always good to be out there and be a part of it and to make a couple of big shots down the stretch.”
Walker is looking like he is in the best shape of his career, as was evident when he followed a Shannon Anderson miss with a two-handed yoke when Boston traveled to Miami on February 6. “You can be in shape but you got to be in Miami Heat shape,” Walker said when asked about him shedding a few pounds. “Coach has different rules and a body fat weight he wants us to be at so I tried to get to that level. Just try to get down to it. And plus, if everybody on the team is making that commitment, you want to make that commitment too. I mean, I have the opportunity to win a title.”
Don’t rub it in.
Most of CelticNation are still puzzled as to why Danny Ainge elected not to re-sign Walker. Antoine made it clear that he wanted to finish his career in Boston, and he played rather well under Doc in the short period of time he was here after being traded back to Boston from Atlanta last year. Plus, CelticNation has mad love for ‘Toine. “My first choice was to come back here without question,” explained Walker. “My first choice was to come back here. But for some apparent reason, I can’t even tell you man. You got to talk with Danny on why he didn’t want me back. And what’s the reason why.”
“A lot of people don’t know the truth,” he continued. “I didn’t say nothing about it. They (the Celtics) wanted to go a different route. But I was never close to coming back here. They never offered me anything. I was just happy that Danny (Ainge) and Wyc (Grousbeck, Managing Partner and CEO of the Boston Celtics) decided to trade me because that was the only way I could get to a team and, obviously, try to get my market value.”
“I think Boston’s plan is to play the young guys,” is what Walker said when asked to about the direction of the Celtics. Then he paused for two or three seconds before laughing, “I don’t know what they’re doing.” He continued by saying, “I just don’t want them to beat us. It’s a mystery. You’re just like I am. We’re all trying to figure it out.”
Coming off the bench for Miami is a role that Walker has gotten used to. Prior to this year, he had been averaging 38.4 minutes per game for his career. Now he’s averaging 26.6 minutes and 12.1 points per game, both career lows. On the flip side, because he has been playing so well as a 6th man, there is talk about Antoine being considered for the Sixth Man of the Year award. “I don’t think I’m scoring enough, said Walker. “I just try to be efficient coming off the bench. It would be something different, a definite accomplishment. Hopefully, we can keep winning and I can keep playing well. It would be a nice award to win but I haven’t thought much about it.”
Walker is also used to being the first or at least the second option, but, in Miami, he’s the third option on the floor when Shaq and Flash Wade are on the court. By coming off the bench, however, Walker admits that he’s able to see the game from a different perspective. He is able to evaluate what the team needs and then check in the game and provide the needed solution for the Heat. “I definitely see (the game) in a different light (coming off the bench),” Walker explained. “It’s a lot different now, but, like I said, I’m 50 or 60 games into it so I kind of really understand how to come off and be effective. And it’s a lot easier on this team because I come off the bench with Alonzo, Gary, and Shannon so I coming out with veteran guys who know how to play the game. It’s not like I’m coming out there by myself and have to do everything. So it makes it a lot easier.”
Not getting his wish to finish his career in Boston will make it a whole lot easier if Antoine Walker can walk away from Miami at the end of his career having won an NBA championship.