Celtics

Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker lead undermanned Team USA past Japan

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Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker lead undermanned Team USA past Japan

BOSTON — As expected, an undermanned Team USA squad delivered an overwhelming beatdown to Japan, 98-45. 

Team Shamrock was missing half of the Boston Celtics foursome with Jayson Tatum (ankle sprain) out for at least two games, while Marcus Smart (left quadriceps) was held out and is listed as day-to-day. 

For both teams, there was nothing on the line in Thursday’s game with Team USA having already secured a berth in the medal round. 

Japan lost all three games in pool play, but are the only sure bet to be in the 2020 Olympics as the host country. 

Team USA jumped out to an 11-0 start in a game that was never close. 

As for the Celtics, even with half of Team Shamrock out with injuries, the tandem that did play — Kemba Walker and Jaylen Brown — certainly put their imprint on the game’s outcome with a slew of highlight-worthy plays. 

Here’s a look at how they fared against Japan.

JAYLEN BROWN

It really has been a roller coaster of sorts for Jaylen Brown thus far, a player who has been seemingly front-and-center or nowhere to be found. Coming off the win over Turkey in which he played just six minutes, Brown responded with a team-high 20 points against Japan which included 3-pointers as well as a couple of transition dunks. With Tatum out, there was little doubt that Brown would get more of an opportunity to play. And to his credit, he made the most of it by delivering strong play both scoring the ball as well as his play defensively. 


KEMBA WALKER

He has been Team USA’s best scorer, but Walker is showcasing a more well-rounded game than what we saw in Charlotte. He has been finding guys in transition, drawing charges at critical moments and not allowing bigger players to just get where they want to, when they want to, on offense. He delivered yet another solid performance against Japan, finishing with 15 points and eight assists. There’s little doubt that Walker is Team USA’s best player, displaying different layers of his talent that we have not seen before while maintaining his role as the team’s leader. 

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Celtics had a terrific celebration planned for Grant Williams' first 3-pointer

Celtics had a terrific celebration planned for Grant Williams' first 3-pointer

Even the best-laid plans go awry when you're too excited about your teammate making his first career 3-pointer.

Celtics rookie Grant Williams finally hit a deep ball Monday night in the third quarter of Boston's win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, ending an 0-for-25 spell to begin his NBA career and causing his teammates to go wild on the bench.

It was a hilarious celebration for a cool moment -- but not the celebration the Celtics had planned.

Backup point guard Brad Wanamaker told the Boston Sports Journal's Brian Robb what should have happened after Williams' first 3-pointer.

If you watch the video, Wanamaker actually stuck to the plan and "passed out" on the sideline, but the rest of his teammates were too excited (shocked, perhaps?) to remember to follow suit.

We appreciate the effort, Brad.

According to Williams, his teammates' celebration also included some colorful language.

"A lot of it was graphic," Williams told reporters when asked what the Celtics were yelling at him after his 3-pointer. "Especially Carsen (Edwards), you know. But outside of that, it was a good moment, just because they were celebrating me."

It helped that the C's were cruising to a 110-88 win over the Cavs, giving them full latitude to celebrate Williams first deep ball however they wanted.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Pacers, which tips off Wednesday at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Kemba Walker stays ready, even in blowouts, when it matters for the Celtics

Kemba Walker stays ready, even in blowouts, when it matters for the Celtics

BOSTON -- Kemba Walker had every reason to think that his night was over going into the fourth quarter. 

Boston had a commanding lead against a Cleveland Cavaliers squad that’s considered one of the worst teams in the NBA. 

But as the game got a little too close for head coach Brad Stevens’ comfort, he turned to Walker.

And Walker responded with a barrage of 3-pointers that left the Cavs as nothing more than collateral damage in the wake of Boston’s 110-88 win. 

Walker finished with a game-high 22 points which included a trio of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter that put the Cavs (5-18) away for good. 

Boston led by as many as 29 points in the second half, only to see that lead down to as little as 14 points in the fourth with seven minutes to play. 

That’s when he called on Walker who came up with one big shot after another. 

And the way Walker responded in the fourth quarter when called upon by Stevens was a reminder of just how important it has become for the best players to be locked in from the opening tip-off to the final horn - even when victory seems all but a given. 

Said Stevens: “I just told the team afterwards, ‘If you want to be special then model after Kemba because Kemba sits over there thinks his night’s done, gets put back into the game, drills three 3’s and ends it.

Stevens added, “Special is not for everybody.”

Having spent his first eight seasons with the Charlotte Hornets, Walker knows exactly what the Cavs were thinking as they steadily chipped away at Boston’s lead.

Understanding the mindset of a team and players on the comeback trail has helped Walker appreciate and embrace the need to always stay on top of his game and ready to go - even when victory seems all but a given. 

Walker understands how a player can lose focus on the game and become relaxed down the stretch in what appears to be a blowout in the making. 

“It’s possible,” Walker says before adding, “But at the end of the day you have to stay engaged through the whole game. You just never know. In this league, 20-point leads go so fast. Teams can score in bunches really fast. You have to stay engaged.”

Which is exactly what he did. 

That not only helped Boston get the victory on Monday, but also served as a great example for the team’s younger players on how to handle themselves when things get sidetracked after going just the way they want them to for most of the game. 

“He set a great example, what he’s done in this league for a very long time,” Tatum said. “That’s why he’s one of the best players in the league.”

And a leader on this team. 

“As one of the leaders I feel I have to stay engaged,” Walker said. “Just like … you never know what to expect.  This league, guys can score so fast and easy. You just never know when teams will come back. It can get a little nerve-racking and Brad felt he had to put me back in. I knew once I got in there, I had to be more aggressive, look for my shot a little more and that’s what I did.”

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Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Pacers, which tips off Wednesday at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.