Tatum Scores 14 as Team USA Dominates Iran in Tokyo

addByline("Marc D'Amico", "Celtics.com", "Marc_DAmico");

Jayson Tatum scored 14 points, and Team USA restored order Wednesday afternoon in Tokyo by logging a runaway 120-66 victory over Iran during the group stage of the Olympics.

Tatum caught fire during a fourth-quarter run that pushed Team USA’s lead into the 50s. He scored 10 points and assisted on three more during a stretch of four-plus minutes of the final quarter, including his final basket of the night, which pushed the US ahead 108-57 for its largest lead of the night to that point.

Tatum finished third on the team in scoring, behind Damian Lillard’s game-high 21 points and Devin Booker’s 16.

Team USA, which must win the remainder of its games in order to bring home a gold medal following its opening-game loss to France, dominated Iran from the opening tip. The Americans smothered their opponent with high-level defense and shot the lights out offensively. That lethal combination allowed them to pull ahead 28-12 at the end of the first quarter, by as many as 33 points during the first half, and by 55 points late in the fourth quarter before polishing off the victory.

Lillard drained six 3-pointers during the first half and seven overall to account for his 21 points. Six USA players scored in double-figures, including three starters (Lillard, Booker and Kevin Durant) and three reserves (Tatum, Zach LaVine and Khris Middleton).

"I think we came out with a lot more urgency," Lillard said after the win. "Our energy was higher. We played at a faster pace. We was more aggressive, and we played like ourselves."

Team USA’s offense was borderline unstoppable, just a couple of days after it struggled to put the ball through the basket against France. The offense sizzled during the first half, as the US canned 56.8 percent of its shots overall and 13 of its 21 3-pointers, good for 61.9 percent. That momentum carried over to the second half as well, as the team finished the afternoon having shot 55.3 from the field, 48.7 percent from long distance, and 94.4 percent from the free-throw line.

The Americans reached the 79-point mark when Durant threw down a transition dunk with 2:58 remaining in the third quarter. This was after the team scored 79 total points during its loss to France just two days prior. They also committed only six total turnovers.

Tatum did not start the game but checked in late in the first quarter for a stint that lasted about eight minutes. He missed his first shot before connecting on his next two, which featured a monster transition slam that pushed the US ahead 51-18. He played the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter as well, during which he scored or assisted on 13 points. Boston’s star wing finished the game having shot 5-for-11 from the field, 2-for-7 from 3-point range, and 2-for-2 from the free-throw line. He also contributed four rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot during 17-plus minutes of action.

Tatum and Team USA will look to carry over their momentum from this contest into their final group stage contest, which is set to be played at 9 p.m. local time (8 a.m. ET) Saturday night in Tokyo against the Czech Republic (1-0). The Czech Republic beat Iran 84-78 for its first victory of the 2020 Olympics, and is set to match up with France for its second game Wednesday.