C's Trio Guides Team USA into FIBA World Cup Quarterfinals
Team USA leaned on its Boston Celtics trio Monday, as Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Kemba Walker combined for 36 points during an 89-73 win over Brazil at the FIBA World Cup in Shenzhen, China. With the victory, the unbeaten USA squad moves onto the quarterfinals, where it will face new C’s center Vincent Poirier and his 4-1 France squad.
Here are a few Celtics-related takeaways from Monday’s action:
Walker Battles Through Illness to Lead Offense
Walker missed Monday’s pre-game shootaround due to an illness, but that didn’t stop him later in the day from generating his top scoring performance of the tournament. The Celtics point guard poured in a team-high-tying 16 points, while shooting 6-of-9 from the field and 2-of-4 from 3-point range. He also dished out five assists, which led to 12 more points for Team USA, giving him a total of 28 points produced.
Team USA outscored Brazil by 22 points during Walker’s 26 minutes of action, tying him with Donovan Mitchell for the game’s best plus/minus rating.
Walker has now scored between 13 and 16 points in all five contests of the tournament, as he leads the USA in scoring with 14.6 points per game.
Smart Stuns with Winning Plays
By now, Celtics fans are used to Smart’s array of winning plays. But those who are witnessing the dynamic Celtics guard for the first time in this tournament have been left in utter disbelief.
The announcers for Monday’s broadcast on ESPN+, for example, were dazzled by Smart’s ability to impact the game, whether it was via a tenacious defensive play, a miraculous save of a loose ball or a circus shot that somehow found its way through the net.
At the end of the third quarter, Smart made an off-balance, fadeaway 3-pointer at the buzzer, prompting one of the announcers to exclaim, “Half-American, half-amazing!”
Marcus Smart with the TOUGH buzzer beater pic.twitter.com/mw31erlvUM— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 9, 2019
That shot sent Team USA into the fourth quarter with a 67-56 lead, and Smart went on to finish with nine points, two rebounds, one steal and one block during 17 minutes of action.
Brown's Versatility Expands
Brown has displayed great versatility with the Celtics over the years, but on Monday he took his resourcefulness to a new level. Team USA coach Gregg Popovich tested out a small-ball lineup during the contest which featured Brown at the center position.
The 6-foot-7 wing was surprisingly effective at the 5, as he was able to muscle his way past former NBA All-Defensive center Anderson Varejao for a couple of layups. Brown finished with 11 points, four rebounds, four assists and a game-high three steals during 26 minutes of turnover-free action.
Tatum Remains Out
Jayson Tatum missed his third straight game due to a left ankle sprain which he suffered last week during the opening round of the tournament.
Brian Windhorst of ESPN reported ahead of Monday’s game that Tatum is “progressing,” but there is still no timetable for his return.
Poirier, Theis Contribute for France, Germany
Celtics newcomer Vincent Poirier played a limited, yet effective role for France Monday, as the 7-foot center tallied two points and an assist during eight minutes of a 100-98 loss to Australia. That one assist came during the most critical point of the game for France, as Poirier fed Nando de Colo for the game-tying layup with 16 seconds left in regulation. However, Australia knocked down a pair of free throws during the final few seconds of the match to hand France its first loss of the tournament.
Poirier will get a chance to face off against a few of his new Celtics teammates for the first time at 7 a.m. Eastern Time Wednesday, as France is set to take on the USA in the quarterfinals.
C’s big man Daniel Theis also contributed for his country Monday, as he tallied two points, five rebounds and a block during 15 minutes of action for Germany. The German squad wound up beating Canada, 82-76, in what was its final game of the tournament after formerly being eliminated from championship contention during the first group stage.
Celtics FIBA Stats
Jaylen Brown – USA
Vincent Poirier – France
Marcus Smart – USA
Jayson Tatum – USA
Daniel Theis – Germany
Kemba Walker – USA