Celtics’ Jayson Tatum Goes Off, Leads Team USA Into Quarterfinals

Getty Images SAITAMA, JAPAN - Jayson Tatum #10 of Team United States high-fives teammates Kevin Durant #7 and Zach Lavine #5 during the first half of a Men's Basketball Preliminary Round

Closing the door on the Czech Republic’s hopes of a second-half comeback while putting the finishing touches on a 119-84 blowout win, Team USA and Boston Celtics All-Star Jayson Tatum put on a show at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Saturday.

Tatum scored 21 of his game-high 27 points in the second half. He caught fire from behind the arc — where he netted 5-of-10 from deep and finished 10-of-16 from the floor, overall.

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“It feels good; felt good to see some shots go in,” Tatum said during his postgame interview. “We’re playing better each and every game, and that’s to be expected; to be better than what we were last game and throughout this tournament. On any given night, anyone on our team can do what I just did tonight and I think that’s what makes us dynamic.”

Celtics’ Jayson Tatum Scores 27 in Team USA’s Win Over Czech Republic

After dropping their first matchup of tournament play to France, Team USA has now rattled off three consecutive wins, thus far, including a nine-point victory against Nigeria, and a 54-point lopsided affair against Iran (120-66). Kevin Durant (23 points, 8 rebounds) was magnificent throughout and set the stage for Tatum, who checked in for the first time in the second half with only a few minutes left in the third quarter.

It was plenty of time for Tatum to put on a shooting clinic as he poured in 21 second-half points.

“We’re still figuring it out,” Tatum said. “But, I think we gotta hang our hat on the defensive end. I think we’re probably the most athletic team here. So, we gotta use that to our advantage on both ends to get stops and kick it out to guys and make plays.”

One person who wasn’t at all surprised while watching Jayson score 27 points in 24 minutes off the bench was Team USA’s head coach Gregg Popovich. After this past season, the legendary San Antonio Spurs coach can certainly empathize with the Czech Republic.

Gregg Popovich: ‘I Told Jayson to Act Like He’s Playing The Spurs’

Popovich certainly knows what it feels like to be on the wrong end of Tatum’s wrath. The two-time All-Star’s unforgettable night against the Spurs during the regular season saw Tatum finish with a career-high 60 points while guiding the Celtics to a 143-140, come-from-behind win in overtime.

“I told Jayson to act like he’s playing the Spurs,” Popovich joked after the win, per Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn. “Every time he plays us, he scores 90.”

Soon after, Tatum’s offensive groove carried over into the postseason against the All-Star trio of Durant, Kyrie Irving, James Harden, and the Brooklyn Nets. He averaged 30.6 points throughout Boston’s first-round, best-of-7 series, including setting a new playoff career-high of 50 points in Game 3 — which turned out to be the Celtics’ sole win over the series before Brooklyn advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals after topping Boston, 4-1.

Moreover, Tatum managed to defeat the Nets’ healthy trio (at the time) without Celtics All-Star Jaylen Brown and an injury-plagued Kemba Walker, who finished with 6 points on 3-of-14 attempts in his team’s only win of the postseason.