Celtics

Team USA handed shocking loss to France in FIBA World Cup, 89-79

Team USA handed shocking loss to France in FIBA World Cup, 89-79

It had to end sooner or later for Team USA. 

After 58 consecutive wins with NBA players in international competition, a diluted Team USA had an earlier-than-expected elimination from the FIBA World Cup following an 89-79 loss to France in the quarterfinals in China. 

A strong surge by Team USA was followed by an even stronger close-out by the French, who will advance to the semifinals and play Argentina. 

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert led the way for the French with 21 points and 16 rebounds, while Evan Fournier tallied 22. The best Team USA can finish now is fifth in the consolation portion of the bracket.

For Team USA, Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell led all scorers with 29 points. The Celtics' Kemba Walker struggled all game, finishing with just 10 points on 2-for-9 shooting. His C's teammates Marcus Smart (11 points) and Jaylen Brown (nine points) each played 22 minutes while Boston's Jayson Tatum remained out with an ankle injury.

Late missed free throws by Walker (6-for-8) from the line and Smart (4-for-8) hurt the Americans' comeback chances.

Vincent Poirier of France, signed by the Celtics this offseason, did not play. 

As much as the sooner-than-expected loss will be attributed to the Team USA players on the floor, it will be remembered more for those who decided to not participate. 

Team USA has still done enough to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, but the World Cup proved once again that the Americans aren't quite as deep talent-wise as some might believe. 

Of the 12 players on the Team USA roster, they combined for just four All-Star appearances with two of those four coming this past season from Walker and Milwaukee Bucks guard Kris Middleton. 

By no means will this loss have any impact of significance on Team USA’s chances at a gold medal in 2020. 

Most, if not all, the players on this team will be replaced by the NBA’s top-tier talent who will be even more motivated now to come away with the gold. 

Still, the loss hurts because on some levels it serves as yet another reminder of how much the game has become more global not only in terms of interest but also the quality of play. 

And when you throw in the chemistry dynamic that was an advantage for the opponents that Team USA played, it shouldn’t come as a total shock that a diluted US squad didn’t just run over teams like we’re accustomed to seeing.

The Celtics quartet of Walker, Brown, Smart and Tatum all had moments of greatness - Walker more than the others - throughout the World Cup. 

But they all had their stretches of not-so-great play which, ultimately, was the one common denominator with all of the players on the team. 

However, Celtics fans will take delight in having four players on the team who had a chance to play with one another and start making inroads towards establishing better team chemistry than we saw last season. 

There’s no question the ending to all this was a disappointment, but no group will benefit from this experience more than the Celtics. 

Walker is a three-time All-Star and will be the head of the Celtics’ attack this season. Him having time to play with Brown, Tatum and Smart - all of whom will play major roles this season - gives Boston a much-needed lift heading into the season. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Here's what the Celtics have to do to start a new win streak

Here's what the Celtics have to do to start a new win streak

The Boston Celtics, player by player, weren’t trying to fool anyone Sunday afternoon following their one-point loss to Sacramento. 

Marcus Smart’s last-second runner that hung on the rim for what seemed like an eternity before rolling out of the cylinder as time expired, would have salvaged a game that they had given away time and time again earlier.

They didn’t deserve to win that game; Sacramento did.

The Kings played harder, smarter and they were the more efficient and effective team for longer stretches than the Celtics.

With the season still relatively young, it’s a good reminder of what happens when you ease into games like the Celtics have seemingly done for a good chunk of this season.

And for Boston, there just isn’t much time for reflection or to take a deeper dive into what specifically led to Sunday’s loss, which snapped a 10-game Celtics winning streak.

Up next they play the Phoenix Suns (7-4), one of the hottest teams in the NBA. 

And while there’s plenty of room for improvement, here are three must-fix areas that require immediate attention if the Celtics are to begin a new winning streak tonight against the Suns.

FIRST-HALF OFFENSE

By the time the final stats are tallied, the Celtics come out looking pretty good offensively. But that’s in large part because of how ridiculously well they play after halftime. The Celtics have become too reliant on a strong finish propelling them to victory. Simply put, they need to begin games better than what we’ve seen this season. While players point to the not-so-great start in the last couple of games as being an issue, the truth is their early game woes run much deeper.

This season, nba.com/stats shows that Boston’s offensive rating in the first half of games is 103.4, which ranks 22nd in the NBA. And yet for the season, the Celtics have the second-best offensive rating (112.0) in the league. The Phoenix Suns have a similar first-half issue with their offensive rating in the first half of games (105.9) being ranked 16th in the league. But overall, their offensive rating (111.6) ranks fifth.

Celtics players are well aware of the need to have better starts in order to have better finishes.

“We’ve started off bad the last few games,” Boston’s Jaylen Brown told reporters following Sunday’s loss. “It’s a long season. We lost the game; it happens. We just have to continue to keep moving forward. It’s not the end of the world.  We lost a game; try and win (tonight).”

REBOUND PERCENTAGE

While some pay close attention to the total number of rebounds snatched per game, a more telling indicator as to how good or bad a team is on the boards, is their rebounding percentage. And while the Celtics are middle-of-the-pack in total rebounds, they get too small a chunk of available boards, that — as we saw on Sunday — will catch up to you eventually.

Against the Kings, the Celtics finished with a respectable rebounding percentage of .518, which is actually better than their season average (.484), which ranks 26th in the league.

However, Boston’s board work was underwhelming to say the least in the fourth quarter.

That's when the Celtics were out-rebounded 14-9 and were outscored 13-4 on second-chance points.

And their rebounding percentage in the fourth quarter Sunday was just .393.

Their opponent tonight has had their share of rebounding struggles as well, with the Suns’ rebounding percentage (.492) ranked 20th in the league.

PULL-UP JUMPERS

We give the Celtics props for looking to attack more going to the rim, than we’ve seen in past years. But with the kind of offensive firepower this team possesses, pull-up jumpers have to be a part of a successful offensive attack. 

It has been that way most of this season, with the Celtics averaging 26.8 points per game on pull-up jumpers, which ranks second in the NBA. But on Sunday, Second Spectrum Data shows that the Celtics generated just 13 points from pull-up jumpers.

Tonight they face a Phoenix team that, while ranking among the league’s highest-scoring clubs, doesn’t generate a ton of offense from pull-up jumpers. For the season, they average 16.1 points from pull-up jumpers, which ranks just 26th in the NBA. 

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Suns, which tips off Monday at 8 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 9 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

Celtics Report Card: Sobering marks as 10-game winning streak ends

Celtics Report Card: Sobering marks as 10-game winning streak ends

The Celtics were inches away from becoming the first team in NBA history to rattle off an 11-game win streak after an opening night loss.

But Marcus Smart's floater at the buzzer didn't fall, and now the C's sit at 10-2. 

Call it an overreaction and maybe this week's grades would be a bit cheerier if Smart’s layup dropped for another undefeated week, but it wasn’t a particularly inspiring seven days for the Celtics. 

Despite their 3-1 record, Boston let the lowly Wizards put up 133 points on the parquet and fell behind by 15 points to a Warriors club with the worst record in the NBA.

Now the C's have to bounce back from their second loss of the season as their road trip continues against the Suns, Clippers, and Nuggets, who own a combined record of 24-12.

But before we look ahead, let's take a look back.

Click here for the Celtics Report Card from Week 4.>>>>>

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Suns, which tips off Monday at 8 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 9 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.