Gregg Popovich, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown

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Marcus Smart sees Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown growing with Team USA

Nick Friar
August 26, 2019 - 10:49 am

Team USA concluded its slate of exhibition games on Monday with an 84-68 win over Canada. Not exactly a dominant conclusion offensively before the U.S. heads off to China for the 2019 FIBA World Cup, but Jaylen Brown had a day. He led Team USA with 19 points in 19 minutes on 8 of 11 shooting (1-for-2 from three). Brown also had three rebounds and a steal.

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Jayson Tatum, on the other hand, didn’t have as much success against Canada. He played 19 and a half minutes, but only made 2 of his 11 shots (0-for-1 from deep), and finished with six points. Though, he did have four rebounds and a blocked shot.

Tatum and Brown both went 2-for-2 from the free-throw line.

The younger Celtics on Team USA’s roster have churned out a mixed bag when it comes to their offensive play so far. Brown is trending upward, and his bad hasn’t been as bad as Tatum’s bad. The games where Brown hasn’t been as impactful offensively, he simply hasn’t shot. Whereas, Tatum has had some rough nights and can’t seem to find his rhythm even though he’s getting good looks.

Yet, Marcus Smart likes what he’s seen from both of them. During an interview on Sirius XM NBA Radio, the Team USA tri-captain expressed how the bond between him, the pair of young Celtics and their new teammate, Kemba Walker, has grown stronger throughout the experience — a theme all four have been in lockstep on since the Smart and Brown received late invites.

As it pertains to Brown and Tatum, specifically, Smart continues to see development.

“You can really see them understanding the game better,” he said. “They see things happening now. They’re both playing really well. They’re good players and getting better.”

Smart was also asked about the Celtics becoming underdogs again after the brief stretch where they were considered on the of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. To no one’s surprise, he doesn’t have an issue with the label.

“Our backs are against the wall now,” Smart said. “When you corner a wounded coyote, you better be ready for it to fight with everything it’s got. That's us this year.”