Team USA’s men’s basketball team has had a rather disappointing outing in Las Vegas for pre-Olympic exhibition matches — they dropped their first two games and had to replace both Bradley Beal and Kevin Love. Despite these setbacks, Team USA ended exhibition play on a high note by beating the 2019 FIBA World Cup champions, Spain, 83-76.
The US returned to action after having their most recent contest get cancelled due to COVID-19, and Tatum returned to action after missing the US’s previous game due to a sore knee.
Team USA’s biggest contributor on the night was Keldon Johnson. Johnson has been with the team as part of the USA Select Team but was called up officially to take Beal’s spot in the final 12-man roster. He brought energy on both ends of the floor and scored 15 points, including 10 in the third quarter, before fouling out in 17 minutes of action.
Boston Celtics fans were pleased to see their star player, Jayson Tatum, return from injury with a solid outing. Tatum chipped in six points in his return but his biggest impact came from his playmaking and ability to defend Spain’s big men in the post. The forward posted five assists while grabbing six boards, and seemed much more engaged on both ends of the floor tonight than he was against Australia. His defense and rebounding were key to helping Team USA fight back from an early third quarter deficit, and turning it into a double-digit lead by the fourth.
Celtics fans may have noticed that Tatum’s first touch of the game took him straight into the post where he backed down his man before hitting a fadeaway jump shot. This was the exact move he was working on with new Celtics head coach, Ime Udoka, in practice leading up to tonight’s game. Fans are hoping Tatum and Udoka can continue to develop their relationship in Tokyo to accelerate their progress together before this upcoming season.
Next up for Jayson Tatum and Team USA will be their first official Olympic match against France on July 25th, tipping off at 8 a.m. ET on NBC.
(Photo of Jayson Tatum/Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)