Jayson Tatum

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Looking over Celtics on Team USA after exhibition against Spain

Nick Friar
August 17, 2019 - 8:00 am
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Team USA knocked off Spain’s national team on Friday 90-81 in an exhibition match as part of their preparation for the FIBA World Cup. Kemba Walker was the lone Celtic to start in the game, though Jayson Tatum was third on the team in minutes (21:57), while Jaylen Brown was one of four players who didn’t log a full 10 minutes (9:47). Marcus Smart was the only player on the roster who did not play. He’s still working through some calf tightness.

Here are a few things that stood out from the trio of Celtics who played on Friday:

 

Kemba Walker’s tempo

Team USA’s offense running through Walker isn’t exactly a surprise. He’s quick, makes smart passes and improvises well when in possession.

What is a bit surprising is how Walker handled himself on the defensive end. He’s everywhere. He’s persistent. It’s almost like his motor was the same on defense and offense.

Maybe Smart was on to something with his recent assessment of Walker’s defense.

 

Jayson Tatum’s aggression

Tatum tied Walker with 11 points, trailing Donovan Mitchell (13) and Khris Middleton (12). The only problem: Tatum wasn’t as efficient as the other three, shooting 33.3 percent from the floor. Though he did go 2-for-3 from three.

But what jumped out from Tatum above all else was how he attacked his opponents almost every time he had the ball in his hands. He created separation and blew past his defender on more than one occasion. In terms of the 2019-20 season, of anything either Tatum, Brown or Walker displayed on Friday, the 21-year-old’s approach was the most important for the Celtics. Tatum went at the USA Select Team similarly and, apparently, he wasn’t simply taking advantage of a lesser opponent. It’s what he does now.

Speaking of Tatum’s brand of basketball, for those who don’t like his persistence with his mid-range game: he’s still taking those shots.

 

Jaylen Brown’s quick turnaround

When Brown first took the floor, it felt like he wasn’t really out there. He wasn’t involved in the offense and, for some reason, he wasn’t being challenged on the defensive end.

But once it became noticeable just how inactive he was on the offensive end, Brown exploded. He had a strong finish on his first drive and threw another one down hard soon after, on a pass from Middleton. And when he finally took a shot from deep, he nailed the wide-open look like he was casually shooting around at the Auerbach Center.

He finished 4-for-5 from the floor and had four rebounds in just under 10 minutes. Brown’s low minutes total on Friday leaves reason to think he’s on the list of players on the bubble, but he clearly has something to offer.