Celtics

Team USA edges Turkey, but Jayson Tatum suffers late-game ankle injury

Team USA edges Turkey, but Jayson Tatum suffers late-game ankle injury

BOSTON — Team USA got all it could handle before escaping with a 93-92 overtime win over Turkey. 

Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton made a pair of free throws with 2.1 seconds to play that proved to be the difference. 

But as much as the focus of the game will be on Team USA’s near-loss, they suffered a setback of sorts even with the victory. 

Boston’s Jayson Tatum suffered a left ankle injury while driving to the basket for what eventually turned into Middleton’s game-winning free throws. 

He quickly stood up and tried to walk it off. 

But once he got to the sideline, he had to be helped by Team USA officials back to the locker room. 

Tatum’s injury as you can imagine not only impacts Team USA but also the Boston Celtics, who come into this season anticipating the third-year forward taking on an even greater role than he had a year ago. 

And on many levels, the World Cup has shown the growth in Tatum’s game which is now about more than just 3-pointers and step-back jumpers. 

We have seen him come up with some impressive blocks as a help-side defender. 

On pick-and-rolls, his defense on guards or bigs who try to post him up, has been as good as any frontcourt player on Team USA’s roster. 

And it was all the more impressive against Turkey which has a number of NBA players, led by Ersan Illyasova, a crafty veteran forward who is also Turkey’s best player. 

But like every game Team USA plays, the impact of Team Shamrock — Tatum, Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown — is hard to ignore. 

Here’s a look at how each fared in Tuesday’s game. 

KEMBA WALKER

By no means was this one of Kemba Walker’s best games as he finished with 14 points while playing a team-high 31 minutes, 57 seconds. But he came up with some big baskets in the overtime period in addition to forcing turnovers by way of steals or drawing offensive fouls against Turkey. In addition to the 14 points, he also had six rebounds and seven assists.

JAYSON TATUM

The severity of the left ankle injury Jayson Tatum suffered in the closing seconds of overtime casts a cloud of sorts on a game in which Tatum redeemed himself for not putting the game away sooner. He had a chance to end the game in regulation when he was fouled on a 3-point attempt with 0.1 seconds to play and Team USA trailing by two points at the time. He missed the second of the three attempts leading to overtime. But in the extra session, Tatum made a number of plays at both ends of the floor, including his final dish to Khris Middleton who drew the foul and went to the line for what turned out to be the game-winning free throws. Tatum, who played the second-most minutes (31:01) to Walker, had a double-double of 11 points, 11 rebounds and 3 assists.


MARCUS SMART

The impact of Marcus Smart on this game was minimal, although the 3-pointer he hit in the first half was certainly a plus as it came about with them trying to trap Team USA. He would finish with five points.

JAYLEN BROWN

At no point did Jaylen Brown seem to get into any kind of flow or rhythm against Turkey, finishing with just one point and one rebound while seeing just six minutes and 12 seconds of action. Of the 11 players used by Team USA (Mason Plumlee did not play), Brown played the fewest minutes. 

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Celtics content to win ugly as Gordon Hayward-less stretch begins

Celtics content to win ugly as Gordon Hayward-less stretch begins

BOSTON — The Boston Celtics were the embodiment of “winning ugly” following Monday’s win over the Dallas Mavericks.

At one end of the team’s locker room, Kemba Walker and his still-sore neck — the one that forced him out of the final minutes of regulation after his scoring outburst helped Boston separate for a 116-106 triumph — struggled to locate his cell phone, and a handful of staffers were summonsed for a mini search party. A couple stalls down, a trainer dabbed at a small gash on Jaylen Brown’s forehead. Nearby, Jayson Tatum lounged in his chair and could only laugh while licking his emotional wounds from a historically bad 1-for-18 shooting night. 

At the front of the room, in front of a pack of cameras and microphones, Marcus Smart publicly declared that he’d like to stop being kicked in the groin during NBA games.

Yup, it wasn’t pretty -- and often painful. But on the same night that Gordon Hayward went under the knife to repair the fractured hand that will sideline him until Christmas, the Celtics got a little taste of how things are probably going to be the next 19 games.

Fortunately for Boston, all ended well. A locker room attendant found Walker’s cell phone hiding under a towel, Brown downplayed the head wound, Tatum trekked to the Auerbach Center for some late-night shooting, and Smart shrugged off his bruises while noting, “It's nothing new for me.”

Ultimately, it’s the Celtics kicking the rest of the league below the belt. Boston won its eighth straight game to move to an NBA-best 8-1 overall. These Celtics keep finding ways to win games even when they don’t play the crispest basketball.

Tatum became only the ninth player in NBA history to put up at least 18 shots in a regular season game and make only one (Mike Newlin’s 1-for-22 performance for Houston in 1973 remains the not-so gold standard for single-field goal nights). But even without Hayward and despite only getting five points in 35 minutes from Tatum, the Celtics found a way to stiff-arm the Mavericks when it mattered most.

They can thank Walker, who shrugged off a quiet first half (5 points on 2-of-6 shooting) before erupting for 24 second-half points on 7-of-11 shooting. 

That included a pair of crunch-time 3-pointers as part of a 10-point fourth quarter in which Walker did all his damage over just 3:39 before colliding with Luka Doncic and suffering what Brad Stevens termed “whiplash.” Walker hit a trio of triples in a 70-second span as Boston pushed its lead to seven before the injury that left trainers working on his neck on the sideline.

Walker, who entered the night fifth in the NBA in fourth-quarter scoring, had struggled in crunch time (games within five points, final five minutes) this season. He was a mere 2-of-11 shooting overall (18.2 percent) in crunch-time scenarios but produced a familiar Kardiac Kemba outburst.

"I missed a lot early but my shot felt good all night,” said Walker. "I was just missing and then, in the fourth quarter, it’s just, naturally, the competitive nature just comes out and trying to do what I can to put the ball in the basket.”

Brown, coming off his 30-point outburst in San Antonio, put together another encouraging night by putting up 25 points and 11 rebounds. By the end of the night, Doncic, a player that looks a lot like a future MVP, said of Brown: "He deserves the contract he got. He's a great player and he's a two-way player. He can play really good defense and really good offense. He's a great pick up by the Celtics.”

Brown said that, with Hayward out, the Celtics aren’t looking for style points.

"That’s what it’s about: Find ways to win, regardless,” said Brown. "The older we get as we go through this process — we’re getting older, me, [Tatum], guys that have been here, Smart. We know how to win, so we’ve just got to continue to do that and I think today was a good example of that.”

Like Brown, many Celtics did a little extra on Monday night. Smart took on the challenge (yet again) of guarding a big in Kristaps Porzingis and helped limit the unicorn to four points on 1-of-11 shooting. Daniel Theis played through a right pinky dislocation to finish plus-27 in 22 minutes. The bench struggled to maintain leads but Robert Williams, Grant Williams, Javonte Green, and Brad Wanamaker all had good moments. Enes Kanter played his first game at the Garden after missing the last seven with a bruised knee.

The Celtics are 8-1. It’s an unsustainable pace, particularly without Hayward, and yet this team honestly feels like it hasn’t come close to playing its best basketball, and certainly not for anywhere near 48 minutes. 

But it’s content to just keep winning ugly.

"We’re just playing, we’re not even worried about the record right now,” said Walker. "It’s a great record, don’t get it twisted. I’m loving it. We’re all loving it, that we’re able to win these games. We’re playing well. I honestly feel like we still have so much growth as a group and we know that as a group, which is really special to me.”

A. Sherrod Blakely's takeaways from Celtics' win over Mavericks>>>

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Marcus Smart looking 'to figure out a solution' after taking another shot to the groin

Marcus Smart looking 'to figure out a solution' after taking another shot to the groin

So far this season, Marcus Smart has been playing some of the toughest defense in the NBA. But it has come at a cost.

Smart has been taking some shots where it hurts, and Monday night was no exception. Against the Dallas Mavericks, Smart got kicked in the groin and went down in pain.

After the game, Smart had a lighthearted press conference where he said he needs to find a solution to that rather specific problem (via the Celtics on NBC Sports Boston Twitter account).

"[Taking a beating is] nothing new for me," Smart said. "I've been taking a beating my whole life. But I don't know what it is. I keep getting kicked in the groin. I don't know what it is about that. We've got to figure out a solution to stop that. I'm used to it. It's what I do, and I pride myself on that."

Part of the reason that Smart has taken so many shots is that he's guarding players much bigger than him. Against the Mavericks, Smart (6-foot-4) played a critical role in guarding the 7-foot-2 Kristaps Porzingis and was part of the reason the team held him to just four points on 1-of-11 shooting. 

Smart is one of the toughest guys in the league, so he won't complain much about taking some shots. But if he does keep guarding big-men amid the Celtics' shortage of effective bigs, he'll have to find a way to avoid getting hit down there too much.

A. Sherrod Blakely's takeaways from Celtics' win over Mavericks>>>

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