Jayson Tatum

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USA finishes seventh at World Cup after 87-74 win against Poland

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BEIJING (AP) — Donovan Mitchell scored 16 points and handed out 10 assists, Joe Harris scored 14 and the U.S. defeated Poland 87-74 on Saturday for seventh place at the World Cup.

Khris Middleton had 13 points, six rebounds and six assists for the Americans, who will head home with a 6-2 record — yet their worst placing ever in a World Cup, world championship as it used to be known, or Olympics.

Derrick White scored 12 and Harrison Barnes added 10 for the U.S.

Mateusz Ponitka scored 18 points, Adam Waczynski had 17 and A.J. Slaughter finished with 15 for Poland (4-4), which was in the World Cup for the first time since 1967.

The Americans put together a 10-0 run in the first quarter to take a 28-14 lead. Poland started 0 for 13 from 3-point range, not getting one from beyond the arc to fall until Michal Sokolowski connected with 1:28 left in the half — and by then, the U.S. lead was 18.

There was little to play for except pride — and the Americans were playing with the realization that, for some of them, it easily could be their last time wearing the red, white and blue uniforms with “USA” across the chest. The roster for the U.S. trip to the Tokyo Olympics next summer is likely to look considerably different than this one.

It had much meaning to Poland coach Mike Taylor as well. He’s an American, who lives in Florida, and mouthed along with the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner” when it played pregame.

His team wasn’t eager to quit, either.

Down 17 at the half, Poland made it a very serious game after intermission. Waczynski’s 3-pointer from the right corner late in the third got Poland within 54-47, and Lukasz Koszarek had a 3-point try that would have gotten his team within four with 8:21 remaining.

TIP-INS

U.S.: Kemba Walker (neck) didn’t play, joining Boston Celtics teammates Jayson Tatum (left ankle) and Marcus Smart (left hand) on the U.S. injured list. White started in Walker’s place at point guard. … Timing is everything — the 6-2 record for the U.S. here was better than silver-medalist Serbia (5-4) and bronze-medalist France (6-3) at the last World Cup. But losing in the quarterfinals doomed the U.S. medal hopes.

Poland: The team had three players who played at the Division I level — Slaughter was a four-year player at Western Kentucky, guard Karol Gruszecki spent two years at Texas-Arlington and center Dominik Olejniczak started his career at Drake, then played two seasons at Ole Miss and will play this year at Florida State as a graduate transfer. … Poland started 4-0 in China, then dropped its last four games.

Jayson Tatum returns to USA practice, may play against France

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SHENZHEN, China — Jayson Tatum was able to return to practice with the U.S. men’s basketball team Monday, less than a week after he sprained his left ankle.

He did not play Monday night when the U.S. (5-0) closed out World Cup second-round play with an 89-73 win over Brazil. It is unclear whether Tatum will be ready for a quarterfinal game against France on Wednesday.

“I hope I can play,” Tatum said. “There’s no timetable or anything. I’m just trying to get back right.”

Shams Charania of The Athletic reports Tatum has a “strong chance” to play Wednesday.

Tatum said he went through the entire U.S. shootaround practice in advance of the Brazil game, able to run and cut without difficulty.

“Felt good,” Tatum said.

The Boston Celtics forward sprained the ankle in the final seconds of overtime in last week’s 93-92 win over Turkey on a play where he set up U.S. teammate Khris Middleton for what became the game-winning free throws. Tatum made two of three free throws with one-tenth of a second left in regulation of that game, sending it to overtime.

Tatum started the first two games of the tournament for the U.S., averaging 10.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in 24.5 minutes per contest.

“When it first happened I was upset,” Tatum said. “I didn’t want to miss any games. But it’s nothing significant.”

U.S. coach Gregg Popovich said he didn’t have an update on when Tatum could potentially return, though seeing him on the floor Monday was an obvious good sign.

“It’s encouraging,” Popovich said.

Team USA knocks off Greece, Giannis Antetokounmpo 69-53

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Sometimes one stat does tell the story:

Through three quarters, Giannis Antetokounmpo had 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting, despite being the focus of Team USA’s defensive attention, and with the entire defense collapsing on him every time he drove.

Greek players not named Giannis were 8-of-42 shooting through three (14-of-51, 27.5 percent for the game).

That had the USA up by 17 after three quarters. The Greek squad made a push in the fourth — while sitting Giannis for most of the quarter in one of the more bizarre coaching decisions you’ll ever see (they said it was to rest him for the next game) — it was too little, too late as the USA won comfortably, 69-53.

With the win, Team USA is now 4-0 overall, lead Group K and is on the verge of advancing to the quarterfinal knockout round of the tournament (where they will face France or Australia). The USA still has a game against Brazil in the second round of group play on Monday that they need to win to guarantee advancement, although even if they lose they likely advance (the scenarios where they do not are long shots).

Greek and USA players had words after the game, and there was some tension, although nothing got physical. It stemmed from a late game play when Harrison Barnes made a steal and had a breakaway dunk but Thanasis Antetokounmpo (Giannis’ brother) tried to make a chase-down block. He missed, and instead Antetokounmpo hit Barnes in the head and fouled him hard, causing Barnes to fly through the camera crews and to the ground several feet off the court. It’s a foul that would have been a clear flagrant — likely flagrant 2 with an ejection — in an NBA game but was just an ordinary foul for FIBA (even after a video review). After the game, Jaylen Brown and Myles Turner seemed to express their displeasure, particularly to Giannis. Marcus Smart was in the middle of it all, too.

That should not overshadow what was one of the better wins for Team USA in this tournament, one where the USA can build some momentum.

Coach Gregg Popovich went with more small ball in this one, with Myles Turner getting 14 minutes at center, but Miles Plumlee only had five, and Brook Lopez did not see the court. For more than half the game the USA went without a traditional center and it worked for them, in part because of Marcus Smart’s defense. It gives us an idea of what we are likely to see when games start to get tight in the knockout rounds, Popovich is going to lean on his athletic backcourt and wings and try to get by with less at the five.

This was not a stellar offensive night for the Americans, who shot 36 percent overall and were 7-of-30 (23 percent) from three. Especially when Kemba Walker sits, the USA struggles to generate consistent offense, although by the second half their ball movement had improved. The Greek defense did a good job collapsing on drivers and getting back to the paint in transition, and the USA did not make them pay with threes.

However, Gregg Popovich has wanted defense to be the USA’s calling card and on Saturday it was, holding the Greeks to 32 percent shooting and never letting Antetokounmpo really take over the game in a way he is capable. Greece was isolating Antetokounmpo on offense at points, trying to get him the ball in the post on others (Smart was among those shutting him down that way), but they don’t use him nearly as wisely as Mike Budenholzer’s Bucks (nor do they have the same shooting around him).

Kemba Walker had 15 points to lead Team USA, Donovan Mitchell added 10, and they were the only two players in double figures for the red, white, and blue. That doesn’t mean other guys didn’t contribute — Harrison Barnes had 9 points and 7 boards, Jaylen Brown had 8 points and 9 rebounds, and Myles Turner had 8 points and 7 rebounds plus got some defensive time on the Greek Freak.

Jayson Tatum did not play in this game. His sprained ankle will be re-evaluated before the Brazil game, but with advancement likely it would be a shock to see him play.

Without Marcus Smart, Team USA crushes Japan in FIBA World Cup (video)

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No Marcus Smart. No Jayson Tatum.

But Team USA still had enough Celtics to overwhelm Japan.

Jaylen Brown (20 points and seven rebounds) and Kemba Walker (15 points and eight assists) led the U.S. to a 98-45 win in their final first-round game Thursday. The domination is a welcome bounce-back for the Americans, who barely beat Turkey in their prior game.

The victory sets up a second-round opener against reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and Greece on Saturday. It’ll be the rare game where Team USA doesn’t have the best player.

It’s still unclear which players Team USA will have at all. Tatum is out a couple games after hurting his ankle against Turkey. Smart, who was banged up during training camp, is the new addition to the injury report.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

The United States will also face Brazil in the second round Monday. Brazil beat Greece, indicating just how much more difficult the competition will get.

Thursday, Japan was completely overmatched. Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura, who had begun to build hype, scored just four points while Japan got outscored by 48 points in his 24 minutes. But he had a big dunk over Myles Turner late:

Jayson Tatum out at least five days for Team USA, will miss next two games

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Jayson Tatum sprained his ankle in the final seconds of Team USA’s overtime win against Turkey. However, he walked out of the USA locker room after without much of a limp, and Celtics’ coach Brad Stevens called the ankle sprain “moderate.”

That’s still enough to keep Tatum out at least five days — or two games — USA Basketball announced on Wednesday. John Schuhmann of NBA.com is in Shanghai with the team and broke it all down.

The first game Tatum misses is a meaningless game against Japan that the USA should win comfortably without him (the USA has already clinched its way to the second round, and Japan lost to the Czech Republic 89-76, that’s a Czech squad the USA beat by 21).

The second game he misses will be the start of the second round, and he could miss both games of that round.

(If you’re confused by the format, welcome to FIBA. Here’s how it works: There are four teams in each first-round group, with the top two teams from each group advancing to the second round. That second round is another four-team group made up of those top two teams — meaning in this case the USA and the winner of Turkey vs. the Czech Republic — and the top two teams from another group, however, your record from the first round carries over and the USA only plays the teams from the other group. Which for the USA means playing Brazil and probably Greece and Giannis Antetokounmpo. From that group, the top two teams advance to an eight-team knockout style tournament.)

Tatum has played a fairly important role for Gregg Popovich and Team USA, starting both games and averaging 24.5 minutes and 10.5 points a game. He was on the court at the end of regulation against Turkey when he was fouled on a three-point attempt with 0.1 seconds left and the USA down two (he hit two of the free throws to force overtime). In overtime he was on the court at the end again, getting fouled on the play that sprained his ankle.

The USA will miss Tatum’s length, scoring, and defense in the second round, especially against a step up in quality of opponents.

The good news for the Celtics is this does not look like the kind of injury that will linger into the season. Boston’s Stevens downplayed the risk of injury for guys playing for Team USA, noting that injuries can happen anywhere at any time (just ask DeMarcus Cousins).