Through seven games, there haven’t been many players off to a more torrid start than Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker. The 6-foot-1 All-Star is averaging 31.7 points (third in the NBA) on .466/.405/.851 shooting splits, making the Hornets must-watch action whenever he’s on the court.
Prior to his outing Saturday night against the Philadelphia 76ers, though, those numbers looked even rosier to the tune of 30.8 points per game on a .492/.453/.849 slash line. The Sixers limited him to 37 points on 11-of-31 shooting (3 of 15 beyond the arc) and a 49.8 true shooting percentage, proving not all 37-point outings are created equally.
Part of that was luck and regression. Walker entered the contest 18 of 43 (41.9 percent) on pull-up 3-pointers this season, but was 0 of 10 against Philadelphia. Last year, Walker shot 38.1 percent (141 of 370) on pull-up triples. Additionally, he was just 3 of 9 on 3-pointers deemed “open” (4-6 feet of space) and “wide open” (6-plus feet of space), per NBA.com. For reference, he shot 39.9 percent on those attempts in 2017-18. So, the Sixers were the beneficiaries of some fortune.
But the Sixers were also able to unsettle Walker, throwing waves of length and size his way. They tabbed Robert Covington as the primary defender on Walker and the sixth-year wing showcased his All-Defensive First Team credentials, using his 7-foot-2 wingspan to induce tough shots all evening long.
Robert Covington was the primary defender on Walker and his length was a chief factor in Philadelphia's success.— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) October 28, 2018
Here, he does a great job denying the dribble handoff, stunts on Jeremy Lamb's drive and recovers to affect Walker's deep 3-point attempt. pic.twitter.com/Iiy9VmBpD7
Covington jumps a little early here but still finds a way to make Walker uncomfortable on the jumper. Does a really good job of getting into Walker's airspace. pic.twitter.com/o1esULrQ0C— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) October 28, 2018
When Walker drove the lane, defenders were quick to collapse inside and cut off his avenues to the rim or alter attempts inside.
This is a rushed and undisciplined closeout from Simmons but Covington showcases his off-ball awareness and slides over to block Walker at the rim.— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) October 28, 2018
Covington was tremendous on both ends last night and this play is a good example of his defensive impact. pic.twitter.com/wU2Bb1iD2H
The Sixers switched this ball screen and Walker gets the edge on Saric but Embiid locked down the paint and rotates over to alter the shot.— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) October 28, 2018
I also think Walker was expecting contact from Saric, who did a good job of not fouling, which threw Walker off balance a bit. pic.twitter.com/fA27Ys4viT
Overall, it was a strong defensive effort by the Sixers on one of the league’s top scorers. For an even more in-depth look as to how Philadelphia contained the jitterbug that is Walker, check out my Twitter moment.