Smart's Defense on Giannis Helps USA Stifle Greece
Team USA continued its undefeated run in the FIBA World Cup Saturday with a 69-53 win over Greece, largely thanks to the stellar play of Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Kemba Walker.
The Celtics trio paced their country in multiple statistical categories at Shenzen Bay Sports Center in Shenzen, China, as they cruised past reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, while improving to 4-0 in the tournament.
Here are a few Celtics-related takeaways from the match:
Smart Smothers Greek Freak
Marcus Smart, as we all know, does not fear any defensive assignment. So, when Team USA coach Gregg Popovich assigned him to guard the NBA’s reigning MVP, Smart seized the opportunity.
Antetokounmpo, who averaged 27.7 points per game last season, was limited to just 15 points Saturday. Smart was a big reason why.
Despite being at a seven-inch disadvantage, the All-Defensive First Team guard pestered Antetokounmpo whenever the pair matched up. On a number of occasions, the Greek Freak’s teammates could not even pass him the rock because of Smart’s aggressive off-ball approach in the post.
Just watch Marcus Smart work on Giannis and then fly into a closeout. Great stuff. pic.twitter.com/4Vqe6NlP5h— Jay King (@ByJayKing) September 7, 2019
Smart didn’t contribute as much on the offensive end, as he logged just three points, all coming from the free-throw line. But his defensive effort told the whole story of his value in this game, as Team USA outscored Greece by 18 points during his 17 minutes of playing time.
If we had to pick one word to describe Walker’s play through the first four games of the World Cup, it would be “consistent.” Team USA’s leading scorer has logged between 13 and 15 points during each of his appearances, and is its only player to scored in double-figures during every game.
Walker notched a team-high 15 points on 5-of-12 shooting Saturday, marking the second straight game in which he reached that tally. For the third straight game, he knocked down a trio of 3-pointers, and for the fourth consecutive game, he led the squad in assists (six).
Brown on the Boards
Brown didn’t have much of a presence on the boards during his first two games of the tournament, as he corralled just four total rebounds during that span. Over the last two games, however, the Celtics wing has seen his impact on the glass quadruple.
Two days after grabbing seven rebounds against Japan, Brown snagged a team-high of nine boards, including four on the offensive end, against Greece. He added eight points in the effort, bringing his scoring total up to 28 over the last two contests.
Tatum Remains Out
Jayson Tatum missed his second straight game due to a sprained left ankle, which he suffered Tuesday on the last play of Team USA’s overtime win over Turkey. The injury is not considered to be a serious one, as his status is listed as day-to-day.
Poirier, France Move to 4-0
Celtics newcomer Vincent Poirier is also off to an undefeated start in the FIBA World Cup, as he and Team France snuck past Lithuania Saturday with a 78-75 win.
Poirier recorded six points, three rebounds (two offensive) and one block during 17 minutes of action at the Gymnasium of Youth Olympic Games Sport Park in Nanjing.