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Here’s what we saw:
1. Greeted by the loudest pregame cheers he’s received this season, Kemba Walker returned to the starting lineup. Walker was not playing with a minutes restriction, after sustaining a neck strain following a scary collision in Boston’s game against the Denver Nuggets last Friday. The injury forced Walker to miss only one game — Monday’s win against the Sacramento Kings — snapping his streak of 158 consecutive games played. With Walker’s return, the Celtics assigned point guard Tremont Waters back to the G-League.
2. In his return, Walker did not seem limited in the slightest. With his mom sitting courtside, he dropped a season-high 39 points on 13-for-24 shooting, including a 6-for-10 performance from behind the arc. Walker was also a perfect 7 for 7 at the free-throw line. Stevens credited Walker for helping the Celtics stay in the game when the Nets drained 10 threes in the second quarter to take a 63-57 lead heading into halftime. Walker said he wasn’t thinking about his injury while on the floor, just that he wanted to win and “play with intensity.” When he checked out of the game for the final time in the fourth quarter, with the victory secured, Walker received a standing ovation.
(Meanwhile, Waters also racked up 33 points in the Maine Red Claws’ 155-131 victory over the Greensboro Swarm.)
3. Fan-favorite Tacko Fall was back in Boston, walking into the Garden with forward Semi Ojeleye. Fall did not sit on the bench with the team, as he was not formally recalled from the Red Claws. The 7-foot-5 — err, 7-foot-6 if you ask him — center was in town to receive treatment on a bruised right knee he suffered in the Red Claws’ game on Monday. Fall is expected to be re-evaluated in one to two weeks.
4. The anti-Kyrie Irving chants started early, drowning out the video played on the center-court video board prior to the starting lineup introductions. The jeers varied from “Kyrie sucks” to “Where is Kyrie?” to “Kyrie who?” There was no rhyme or reason to when the crowd decided to break them out, as they rained down when the Celtics were both trailing and leading — and once when Daniel Theis was at the free-throw line. By my count, the crowd started some form of chant a total of 12 times. When Stevens challenged a blocking foul on Semi Ojeleye with 9:23 remaining in the fourth quarter, fans used the downtime from the video review to start their loudest “Where is Kyrie?” of the night.
Some even brought signs, such as one that had featured Walker’s face, a greater than sign, and Irving’s face (in that order). Plenty of No. 11 T-shirts and jerseys were also spotted in the sellout crowd, with Irving often crossed out in favor of center Enes Kanter. Others, however, opted to keep Irving’s name across the top and wrote, “Where’s,” above it and question marks below it.
5. Rapper Gucci Mane was in the building. New this season, the Celtics have added a lower-third graphic to the jumbotron, helping to identify celebrities or athletes in attendance. Personally, I will miss the fun in seeing if I could re