Walker had 26 points and 11 rebounds and the Celtics shut down the New Jersey Nets in a 93-86 victory that evened the Eastern Conference finals at one game each.
The Celtics survived another sub-par game from All-Star Paul Pierce and a late rally led by Jason Kidd to take home-court advantage away from the top-seeded Nets. They host Games Three and Four on Saturday and Monday and have not lost at home in the postseason.
There were many similarities from Game One. Kidd had another triple-double. Pierce again shot poorly from the field and the line. And one team took charge early and maintained control throughout.
This time, however, it was Boston, with Walker sparking the offense and Tony Battie leading a defense that limited New Jersey to 33 percent (28-of-84) shooting. The Celtics were the far more aggressive team, winning the battle on both backboards and repeatedly beating the Nets to loose balls.
"It was kind of strange, almost a reversal," Nets center Todd MacCulloch said. "They came out very aggressive. We had the rebounding edge last game, but it was evident right from the start that they wanted to have that advantage. They were jumping a little higher and holding on for a little bit longer and that led to putbacks and kickouts for threes. Right from the start, they put us in a hole."
"I was very pleased with our defensive effort," Celtics coach Jim O'Brien said. "We executed our defensive plan. We did nothing different at all, other than trust each other."
Walker wasn't particularly sharp, making just 11-of-32 shots. But he made them when it counted, jump-starting a third-quarter surge and making key baskets to turn back a charge by the Nets.
"With me and Paul, we have a very high confidence level and we basically have a green light offensively," Walker said. "Not necessarily to go 14-for-52, but obviously to take good shots and get the other guys involved if things are not going well for us. We have to be aggressive and the confidence level coach O'Brien has instilled in us and as a player, you can't do anything but enjoy that."
Battie, who was thoroughly outplayed by MacCulloch in Game One, bounced back with eight points, 12 rebounds and five blocks. He also fueled the big run and helped the Celtics hold a 60-50 edge on the glass.
"There was more than one guy in the paint tonight," Kidd said. "They made a conscious effort to protect the paint. They did a great job."
"We did a terrible job on offense as far as running our offense and basically they outhustled us," Nets coach Byron Scott said. "They were more aggressive than us and it just seemed that they wanted the game a little more than us."
The board work was enough to compensate for Pierce, who made just 3-of-20 shots and 11-of-20 free throws. He finished with 18 points and 14 rebounds, failing to score from the field in the fourth quarter.
"It just says a lot about our team," Pierce said. "Antoine didn't shoot the ball particularly well and I didn't shoot the ball particularly well. But we still won the game. Everyone was saying that we both had to play great for this team to win. That silenced the critics right there."
Kenny Anderson scored 12 points and Eric Williams added 11 and eight boards for the Celtics, who bounced back in Game Two for the second straight series. Against Detroit, they lost the opener, then won four straight games.
"They saw defense tonight," Anderson said. "The first game, they didn't see any defense. This is how the series is going to be now. This is our type of basketball. We'll see how they respond."
Kidd had 23 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists for his second triple-double in as many games. He nearly rallied the Nets from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit but came up short.
Walker and Eric Williams made 3-pointers to give Boston an 88-74 lead with 3:40 to go before a three-point play by Aaron Williams, a banker by Kidd and two free throws by Kenyon Martin halved the deficit.
Pierce had a rebound stolen by Kidd, who flipped a behind-the-back pass to Van Horn for a layup that made it 88-83 with 1:25 to go. But the Nets missed a handful of shots and Pierce finally sealed it with two free throws with 23 seconds left.
"We didn't make many shots tonight," Nets guard Lucious Harris said. "Where we needed to make shots, we didn't. We went on a run in the fourth quarter but fell short."
After the Nets got within 48-47 early in the third quarter, Walker had a hook and a 3-pointer to start an 18-1 burst. While New Jersey was missing 10 straight shots, Pierce had a 3-pointer and four free throws and Battie had two blocks, an alley-oop dunk and a tip-in that made it 66-48 with 3:38 remaining.
"Tony Battie played a huge third quarter as far as controlling the inside," Walker said.
Boston had its lead cut to Nets 11 points before Walker's three-point play closed the quarter and rebuilt the advantage to 75-61.
Martin scored 22 points and Aaron Williams added 16 for the Nets. But Van Horn made just 2-of-12 shots for five points and Kerry Kittles was 2-of-11 for four.
The Nets began with none of the crispness they exhibited in Game One as the Celtics slowed the transition game and jammed the cutters. New Jersey settled for jump shots that did not fall and Boston bolted to a 27-17 lead. Eight Celtics scored, including Tony Delk, who made a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
"We were dead-set on not letting them get the basketball in the low post and not letting it be driven into the paint," O'Brien said. "We didn't want to give up anything at the basket. That was our focus."
"They just packed it in and we didn't make shots," Scott said. "We were very impatient pretty much the whole game."
The slow start continued as the Nets went nearly four minutes into the second period without a basket. A jumper by Anderson opened a 30-17 lead, and the Celts still led, 41-30, with less than four minutes to go before Kidd helped New Jersey pull within 48-42 at halftime.
"Guys had the ball and it seemed like they were nervous," Martin said.