Team USA has one Olympic loss already and now that the medal round is here, another defeat would end its gold medal hopes. The Americans will face Spain in the quarterfinals and Celtics forward Jayson Tatum could be the key to advancing, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic.
Spain captured the FIBA World Cup in 2019, but Tatum played in just two games after being injured early in the tournament. He’s fully healthy now and has gotten over a slow start in the Olympics, scoring 27 points in Saturday’s rout of the Czech Republic.
“Our confidence never wavered,” said Tatum, whose team lost a pair of exhibition games in Las Vegas, then dropped its Olympic opener against France. “We understood that it wasn’t gonna be easy. We didn’t have our full team until four days ago, five days ago, so we knew that we had a lot of challenges ahead of us. And we also know that we would continue to get better every day. We would get better from each game, each practice, just the more time that we spent together, we were never going to be the same team, from day one, that we are now. And hopefully, we’re better this time next week than we were today.”
There’s more from Tokyo:
- Kevin Durant reached a milestone Saturday, passing Carmelo Anthony as Team USA’s all-time leading scorer in Olympic competition, Vardon adds in a separate story. Durant, who is seeking his third gold medal, now has 354 total points. “It is special to do something like that,” he said. “Scoring is something I worked on my whole career and something I’ve expanded my whole career, and being able to consistently do it is pretty cool.”
- The U.S. didn’t have a pure point guard until Jrue Holiday joined the team, says Jim Souhan of The Star Tribune. Holiday was busy with the playoffs during training camp and exhibition play and didn’t leave for Japan until after the Bucks’ championship parade. “His entry onto the team, late as it was, has had an immediate effect, because he garners so much respect from his teammates,” coach Gregg Popovich said.
- After undergoing surgery for a stress fracture in his left foot, Pau Gasol was determined not to let it end his career, writes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. The 41-year-old has battled back and is playing an important role for Spain. “I love the game,” Gasol said. “I wanted to finish my career playing. I had such an incredible, extraordinary career that I didn’t want the injury to finish it for me.”