Celtics Lead USA to 102-86 Victory Over Australia
BOSTON – Three Boston Celtics played key roles in Team USA’s 102-86 victory over Australia during the wee hours of Thursday.
Following a 5:30 a.m. ET tip-off (7:30 p.m. local in Melbourne, Australia), Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown each scored in double-figures while combining to score 45 of Team USA’s 102 points, which amounts to 44.1 percent of the team's scoring. Walker started and led all scorers in the game with 23 points. Brown, who also started, and Tatum matched each other with 11 points apiece.
There were three stretches of the game during which all three Celtics were on the floor together. Those moments proved to be some of Team USA’s best of the contest.
The trio, flanked at different moments by Kyle Kuzma, Mason Plumlee, Harrison Barnes and Joe Harris, led Team USA while it turned an eight-point lead into a 15-point lead during the final 3:09 of the third quarter. The USA squad never relinquished control of the contest from that moment on.
Each of Boston’s players made an impact on the game and had some very strong moments. Below is a synopsis of each player’s performance against the Aussies.
Kemba Walker – Point Guard
Walker started at point guard and heated up as the contest unfolded. He scored two points during the first quarter, five during the second quarter, seven during the third quarter and nine during the fourth quarter to total his game-high 23 points. He shot 9-of-22 overall from the field.
Most of Walker’s early attempts came from the mid-range, but by the end of the game, he was attacking the basket or launching from 3-point range. He found much more success with the latter tactic.
Walker also contributed six rebounds and an assist.
A couple of notes stood out from Walker’s performance. First and foremost is the fact that Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich is planning to ride Walker as one of his top players. Walker logged more minutes than any player on the team, with 26.
What also stood out is Walker’s defensive effort. Marcus Smart, who is also a member of the Team USA squad but has yet to play due to a lower-leg injury, recently said that Walker is “actually a really good defensive player.” The tape from Thursday’s contest supports that claim, as Walker stayed tight to his man throughout the contest, communicated with his teammates, and gave great effort.
Jaylen Brown – Wing
Brown started and played very well during his 20-plus minutes of action. He said Tuesday that his role on this team is to be a “utility guy,” one who plays aggressively and attacks the glass. He fulfilled that role at a high level during this victory.
Nearly all of Brown’s early impact on the game arrived in the rebounding department, where he consistently attacked rebounds and boxed opposing players out. He grabbed six rebounds during the game, but his impact on the glass felt far more significant than that number.
Brown didn’t find his groove offensively until the fourth quarter, when he made three of his five field goals. However, one of his standout offensive plays arrived during the second quarter.
The soon-to-be fourth-year player yanked down a rebound and took the ball the length of the court for a driving layup at the other end. During his drive to the basket, he was bumped by an Australian player, but it was as if the bump had never even happened. Brown’s strength absorbed the contact and he finished his layup with ease.
Based upon Brown’s first games with Team USA, as well as some clips that have surfaced from his practices with the team, it appears as if the wing’s body is stronger than ever. He’s playing with power at both ends, which is a great development for Boston.
Jayson Tatum – Forward
Tatum may not have started, but he continued to stuff the stat sheet for Team USA. He tallied 11 points, four assists, three rebounds and a steal during nearly 23 minutes of action.
The top takeaway from watching Tatum in this game is that his poise, decision-making and patience were all outstanding. He saw the floor well, which translated both to assists and to locating open shooting areas. During one particular play, Joe Harris drove along the right baseline, and the left corner was left unoccupied. Tatum noticed, relocated himself from the wing to the corner, and Harris found him for an open jumper.
This was just one example of Tatum showing significant development with his feel for the game while with Team USA. He’s making great decisions, he’s seeing the floor at a high level on both ends, and he’s very aware of his surroundings. Coupling those facts with his raw talent would take his game to a whole other level this season for Boston.