6.07.2017

Pitino Downs Calipari

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November 22, 1997
It was one of two 3-pointers Antoine Walker registered for the Celtics last night. This one came with 3:07 remaining in the game, just seconds left on the 24-second clock.

Walker stood high on the right wing, away from Greg Minor, who held the ball at the top of the key. Walker kept his eye on the clock while calling out Minor's name. There were just six seconds remaining on the possession when Minor heaved it Walker's way. 

He was a tad too far behind the 3-point arc, but Walker knew he had to take it. He let it fly and the ball went through the hoop, giving the Celtics an 87-78 lead, putting a halt to the New Jersey Nets' comeback attempt, and allowing Boston the breathing room it needed for a 101-93 victory at the FleetCenter.

Walker had a game-high 24 points, connecting on 9 of 15 field goal attempts and 2 of 4 3-pointers, in addition to 4-for-4 foul shooting. Not bad for someone who was held to 2 points in the first quarter, 10 in the first half.

"The shot clock was running down and I saw it and I don't think Greg saw it, so I wanted to get my hands on the ball," Walker said. "I knew I could get it with the defender backing off from me. I was shooting the ball pretty well from the outside, although a couple of my threes went in and out. I felt good shooting it, so I shot the ball.

"It was a little further than Coach Rick Pitino probably wanted, but with the shot clock running down, he let me get away with it."

Indeed, it was OK with Pitino. "Once Antoine put it in," he said, "it gave us a big lift."

The Celtics had gotten into their offense slowly on this trip downcourt. "Our guys didn't hear the play that was called," Minor said, "and so everyone was standing on the perimeter."

Minor also knew that the 24-second clock was certainly not in his team's favor. "I had a chance to rebound the ball after I threw it to Antoine," he said. "I figured I had a 50-50 chance had it not gone in."

Walker never let the situation get that far. He also led the Celtics in assists with five. And he wasn't bad on the boards, either, grabbing 12 rebounds, 11 of them off the defensive glass, in 36 minutes. The Celtics won the battle of the boards, 42-38.

"Scoring, rebounds, passing, we're a .500 team now and we can get better," Walker said. "We wanted to win this game to get back to .500, and every game has got to be a learning experience.

"I just try to keep focused. I thought the fouls hurt me early on, but in the second half, I decided that I wanted to be more aggressive. The Nets figured I wasn't having my best night in that first half, but I went to the basket and it paid off," Walker said.

"I let the game come to me. Right now I'm facing a lot of double teams, a lot of different looks, night in and night out. The best thing for me to do right now is to stay focused, stay calm, and let the game come to me. We've got teammates who can step up and hit the shot. I felt confident with them."

It wasn't always that way with Walker earlier this season.

"At the beginning of the year, he tried to go through the double team and sometimes triple teams," Minor said. "Right now he's looking for the guys slashing and cutting to the basket, and it makes him look so much better. He's a heck of a passer for a man his size."

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