Team USA finished off the first round of group play on Thursday morning with a dominating 98-45 win over Team Japan.
Despite Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum both being out with injuries, the Celtics still controlled the game in the win. Jaylen Brown put up 20 points for Team USA and a few highlight worthy dunks to go along with his stellar scoring output. Kemba Walker put up 15 points, 8 assists and a few crossovers and passes that drew a number of oohs and ahhs from the crowd in China. Brown and Walker finished as the top two scorers in the 53-point blowout win for Team USA, the 3rd largest margin of victory for any team in the tournament so far behind only Lithuania's 54-point win over Senegal and Serbia's 59-point win over the Philippines.
It was a spectacular game individually for Brown and Walker, but Team USA's performance overall shouldn't be considered overly encouraging in regard to their chances moving forward. Japan has proven to be one of the worst teams playing in the FIBA World Cup over their 3 games. After coming into the tournament ranked 19th in FIBA's official power rankings, Japan leaves the Word Cup as was one of only 8 teams to finish winless in the tournament and each of their losses were by double digits. Japan's offense was simplistic and ineffective and their defense was overmatched and gambling for steals possession after possession in order to make up for the difference in athleticism. Japan's plan failed on both ends and resulted in a massively disappointing performance.
Team USA moves on to the 2nd round of group play where they will face much tougher competition. Team USA lands in Group K which where they will square off first against Giannis Antetokounmpo's Greece Team on Saturday and then against a Brazil team led by savvy veterans like Anderson Varejao , Leandro Barbosa and Alex Garcia on Monday. Both games are scheduled for 8:30AM EST.
Photo: (Hector Retamal - AP Photo)