Celtics

Celtics trio plays key role in Team USA's 89-73 World Cup win over Brazil

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AP Images

Celtics trio plays key role in Team USA's 89-73 World Cup win over Brazil

BOSTON -- It has been well-documented that this Team USA squad doesn’t have the kind of offensive firepower we’ve seen from past teams. 

So it is their defense that more times than not, will blaze a path towards victory. 

That was indeed the case on Monday as Team USA pulled away for an 89-73 win over Brazil, fueled in large part by its ability to generate easy buckets out of its defense in addition to getting some timely shot-making from the trio of Boston Celtics on the roster (Jayson Tatum, still on the mend from an ankle injury, did not play). 

Brazil, which was eliminated from World Cup play with the loss, got a game-high 21 points from Vitor Benite. Ex-Celtic Leandro Barbosa came off the Brazilian bench to score 14 points while another former NBA player, Anderson Varejao, also had 14 points.

Team USA moves on to where it will face France in a quarterfinal matchup. 

As for the Celtics contingent on Team USA, here’s a look at their impact on Monday’s win. 

KEMBA WALKER
He led the team with a game-high 16 points, in addition to continuing to be the team’s on-the-floor leader. More times than not, it was Walker making the big shot or the right pass to keep Brazil from seriously threatening Team USA’s control of the game. In addition, his defense led to some well-timed turnovers by Brazil that collectively factored into Team USA’s victory.

MARCUS SMART
We talk a lot about his defense, but arguably the play of the game for Team USA was a buzzer-beating shot by Marcus Smart to end the third quarter. The shot, which left his hand with 0.1 seconds, gave Team USA an 11-point lead going into the fourth. But maybe just as significant, it seemed to squash all hopes of a Brazil comeback after it had stayed within single digits for most of the first three quarters. Smart finished with nine points. 

JAYLEN BROWN
It really has been feast or famine with Jaylen Brown for Team USA. Against Brazil, we saw a little bit of both. Brown missed a few shots he should have made early on, but still saw playing time because of his solid play defensively. As the game wore on, it was clear that Team USA was wearing down the more seasoned Brazilian team, which created quite a few opportunities to get easy baskets in the second half. Brown was among those to benefit from this, scoring eight of his 11 points in the fourth quarter, in addition to doing his part defensively in helping Team USA outscore Brazil 19-7 in points off turnovers.

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Enes Kanter shows big support for 7-foot-7 Tacko Fall in latest tweet

Enes Kanter shows big support for 7-foot-7 Tacko Fall in latest tweet

Enes Kanter seems to be a fan of Boston Celtics' 7-foot-7 rookie Tacko Fall.

Kanter posted a video to Twitter of Fall practicing at Auerbach Center, and he took time to praise Fall's efforts on Twitter.

The Celtics' signed Kanter to a two-year $10 million deal back in July, while Fall entered Boston's system as an undrafted free agent but he impressed in the Las Vegas Summer League. Kanter is the replacement for Al Horford, who left the Celtics over the summer for the Philadelphia 76ers.

The two should be a great duo for the Celtics, as both have the height and skill to be something special this coming season.

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Countdown to Celtics Camp: Record predictions for the 2019-20 campaign

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

Countdown to Celtics Camp: Record predictions for the 2019-20 campaign

Entering training camp a year ago, expectations were sky-high for the Celtics. Most pundits considered them the team to beat in the East. Vegas fancied Boston as a 59-win team, the second-highest win total behind only Golden State. And a Finals matchup between those two teams was far from a pipe dream.

Fast forward a year and expectations have been tempered. The Celtics lost a pair of All-Stars this summer in Kyrie Irving and Al Horford and, despite signing another in Kemba Walker, the team finds itself widely considered a Tier 2 team in the East behind projection darlings Milwaukee and Philadelphia.

So what happens this year? Do the Celtics go back to being the sort of overachievers that have defined Brad Stevens’ coaching career? Will a younger roster struggle to simply meet even the lowered expectations of this season?

To wrap up Week 1 of our Countdown to Camp series, we asked our NBC Sports Boston panel to look into their crystal balls and predict not only Boston’s final win-loss record but how far they’d advance in the playoffs.

The  Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook projects Boston at 49.5 wins this season. The Bucks (58) and Sixers (55) top the Westgate projections and the next five teams all reside in the west. 

The Celtics went 49-33 last season, settling for the fourth seed in the East. They swept the Victor Oladipo-less Pacers in Round 1 but bowed to the top-seeded Bucks in five games in Round 2.

When you consider that Westgate’s four lowest win totals reside in the East (Knicks, Wizards, Cavaliers, Hornets) and seven East teams sit below 40 wins, it feels like the Celtics should reasonably win 50+ games despite the roster changes.

So we’ll put the Celtics at 52 wins and a spot in the East semifinals. That seeding would likely mean a second-round matchup jousting with either Giannis’ Bucks or Embiid’s Sixers and Boston’s frontcourt development might dictate just how competitive those series could be. Remember, too, Stevens tends to produce his best magic when you least expect it.

The irony, of course, is that the Celtics could win 49 games this season and get bounced in Round 2 again but if they develop chemistry and are more enjoyable to watch then last year’s gang, then Celtics fans will be far more OK with that script playing out a second time — well, so long as players make the sort of strides that suggest more is possible in the coming years.

Abby Chin: 50-32 Eastern Conference Finals

I think purely based on better chemistry and grit, this team will improve on last year’s win total. And, I’ll bank on some luck in the playoff bracket. Maybe with injuries, or regular season Al Horford, Philly and Milwaukee fall to the 2 and 3 seed so the Celtics could avoid them in the first couple rounds.

 

A. Sherrod Blakely: 50-32, East Finals

I'm gonna keep the cookies on the bottom shelf with this one. They are a better team (team not individuals) than they're going to get credit for, and they have a roster that's full of talent with a huge chip on their shoulders from the coach on down. This group will play harder, smarter and win a lot of games they probably shouldn't and by doing so, keep Celtics fans extremely happy all season.

Max Lederman: 51-31, lose in 2nd round

Before last season the Celtics have always overachieved under Brad Stevens. I expect a return to that with lowered expectations this season. The Celtics also had their worst record vs winning teams last year since Brad's 2nd season. They should put up a better fight this season.

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