Tatum Heats Up for Another Big 4th Quarter, Pushing USA into Semifinals

Jayson Tatum was Mr. Fourth Quarter throughout last season for the Boston Celtics.

And now, he’s turning into Mr. Fourth Quarter for Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics.

Tatum helped to break open what had been a close quarterfinals matchup against Spain Tuesday, as he dropped 10 of his 13 points during the fourth quarter to guide Team USA into the semifinals, thus clinching a chance to compete for an Olympic medal.

For Tatum, it marked the second straight game in which he scored in double-figures during the final frame after erupting for 17 points in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s group stage win over the Czech Republic.

Tatum saved almost all of his scoring for crunch time Tuesday afternoon after tallying only three points during the first three quarters while playing limited minutes. However, head coach Gregg Popovich gave Tatum plenty of run during the final 10 minutes, and that’s when the All-NBA wing did most of his damage.

Team USA had just a four-point advantage early in the fourth quarter over the No. 2 ranked Spanish squad, but Tatum changed the flow of the game as he scored or assisted on 11 straight points to help push the lead out to 15.

During that run, Tatum went on a personal 7-0 scoring spree over a span of just 57 seconds, which included two 3-pointers a rebound, and a steal that led to a clear-path foul.

Tatum finished as Team USA’s second-leading scorer behind Kevin Durant (29 points), while also logging three rebounds, two assists, and one steal during 18 minutes of turnover-free action.

Ricky Rubio led the way for Spain with a magnificent 38-point effort. The veteran guard scored 13 of those points during the first quarter, guiding Spain out of the gates to a 21-19 lead. USA then out-scored Spain by two during quarter No. 2, which placed the teams in a 43-43 tie at halftime.

Team USA exploded out of the break on a 22-6 run, but Spain responded by closing out the third quarter on an 11-2 run of its own.

Team USA had a slim, 69-63 advantage heading into the fourth, and that’s when Tatum buckled down.

“We knew it was win-or-go-home, and they knew that,” Tatum said in an interview with NBC after the game. “They’re a really good team. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. We expected a dogfight, and that’s what it was.”

Tatum has provided much of that fight down the stretch during the last two games. He has scored 40 points in his last two contests, including 27 during the fourth quarter alone.

However, this is not a new development for Boston’s Mr. Fourth Quarter, as Tatum led the NBA this past season in fourth-quarter scoring. Now, he’s just continuing the trend on an international stage.

If Tatum and Team USA can maintain their strong play down the stretch, then they’ll have a chance to clinch a medal in Thursday’s semifinal, which will be played against the winner of Tuesday night’s matchup between Argentina and Australia.

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