CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Western Conference was supposed to provide fireworks, but a month into the season it’s barely lighting a match. The Warriors are struggling without Stephen Curry, Houston already gave up on Carmelo Anthony and Luke Walton’s job in L.A. is one ugly loss away from popping up on Indeed.
The must-watch TV we all thought we’d have to wait up late to watch, however, is in the Eastern Conference with stat-stuffing point guards Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker.
The two hottest players in the association went shot-for-shot against each other Monday night in Charlotte with the Hornets getting the better of Boston in a 117-112 win behind 43 points from Walker, who went off for 60 just two nights prior against the 76ers.
“I’m glad Kemba showed up tonight,” Charlotte coach James Borrego said after the game. “We were looking for another 60, but I think 43 will do tonight.”
The Hornets needed every bit of sweat and effort Walker poured on the court as Irving played a spectacular game in his own right with 27 points and 11 assists. But in the end, with 33 seconds left to play, Walker’s seventh 3-pointer of the night — giving him 21 points in the fourth quarter alone — splashed through the net and put the Hornets up 117-111. He shouted toward the roof of the arena knowing he put the game out of reach as the home crowd chanted “M-V-P.”
When the game ended, Irving was the first person to embrace Walker.
“I just told him to keep killing, keep doing his thing,” Irving said of the moment.
We’re accustomed to seeing Irving be that killer late in a close game, but Monday he seemed to force it late as Walker owned the moment and took over.
Kemba vs. Kyrie: 4th Quarter
Tony Parker, a guy who knows a thing or two about playing the point guard position in the NBA, marveled at Walker's stamina to become just the sixth player to score 40 after scoring 60, saying: "The poor guy is going to die soon."
Borrego said it's simply in Walker's DNA.“I think that’s his mentality. Whatever it takes for this team to win and be competitive, he’s going to do.”
Mind-bending lay-ups and dagger 3s won’t only help Charlotte win games, but will most likely secure Walker a max contract this offseason when he hits free agency. Late in Monday’s win, Walker shouted to the rafters: “This is my f—ing city!”
“The way I play each and every night I leave it all on the court,” he said. “And that’s for this organization. That’s for this city.”
A few months after Walker could start the All-Star Game over Irving, we’ll find out if the Hornets make Walker a Charlotte lifer. And after the last three days, it would be foolish for Michael Jordan not to shell out every dime needed to keep him. And it would be foolish for all of us not to watch him play at every opportunity.