The Americans were knocked out of medal contention on Wednesday by France and faced a quick turnaround in the consolation bracket on Thursday, facing off with Serbia for the right to play in the fifth-place game on Saturday. Team USA was down two Celtics for this affair with Jayson Tatum still sidelined with a sprained ankle and Marcus Smart shut down due to a variety of ailments (quad/knuckle/calf), leaving the Americans with just 10 healthy players including three centers.
Playing shorthanded and on short rest, the Americans fell behind by 25 in the first quarter and failed to fully climb out of that hole over the final 30 minutes, dropping the contest 94-89 to guarantee no higher than a seventh-place finish in the World Cup. It is the first two consecutive losses for the Americans in international play since 2002 and will be the Americans worst World Cup finish ever no matter the result of their Saturday matchup against Poland. A few thoughts on the Celtics involved in the defeat.
Kemba Walker: 18 points, 4 rebounds, 8 assists, +5 in 30 minutes: A strong bounce back for the point guard after a subpar outing against France in the quarterfinals. Walker helped to will the Americans back into the game in the second quarter, carrying the offensive load on his back by playing a team-high 30 minutes. His efficiency was stellar (7/11 FG) although he continued to get to the FT line much less (two attempts) than his usual NBA output (over five per game). With Donovan Mitchell (nine points) struggling, this game could have turned into an embarrassment for the Americans if not for Walker bringing his usual bag of tricks on the offensive end. It will be interesting to see how heavily Popovich leans on Walker in the seventh-place finale after playing him so much in the past two days.
Jaylen Brown: 4 points, 3 rebounds, +8 in 16 minutes: After a stretch of strong performances in the past