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FIBA World Cup: USA thumps Japan 98-45 without Tatum and Smart

Jaylen Brown converted 9-for-15 from the field with sizzling slams while two of his Celtics teammates sat out.

USA v Japan: Group E - FIBA World Cup 2019 Photo by Yifan Ding/Getty Images

Japan posted a staggering 27% FG, 18% 3-pt and 67% free-throw line as the USA received a well-needed walkthrough before the elimination games ahead.

Greg Popovich needed to call two get-right second-half timeouts, treating a 40-point lead like the Japanese had closed within single digits. It signaled an incomplete effort against an opponent that couldn’t muster points. The USA advanced from Group E with a 98-45 thumping over 0-3 Japan, but enters the knockoff stage appearing more damaged than their spotless record suggests.

Marcus Smart sat out on Thursday with strained left quad. Brian Windhorst reported that he’s day-to-day with the same injury that limited him earlier in the summer. Jayson Tatum suited up after he sprained his ankle on Tuesday but did not play. Brad Stevens described the injury as moderate, and Tatum appeared to walk without a limp pregame.

The USA didn’t need them. They used the jump, eight seconds and a light screen to hand Japan the deficit they’d never overcome. Ryusei Shinoyama fronted Kemba Walker — waving his hands playing tight to his chest — only to get cut off by Myles Turner and chase Walker to a foul.

Japan, catching the US after the Turkey frustration, struggled to catch up to the USA’s speed for the entire first half and fell behind 46-19. Nick Fazekas, No. 22, labored up the floor.

Walker and Turner grabbed two offensive boards on the third possession. Joe Harris converted from three to push America ahead 13-0, and it could’ve been worse if the US shot efficiently. Most of the points came from Red-Sea lanes to the rim, second-chance buckets and volume three-point shooting.

The US converted 4-for-13 outside to begin the game, only trying 11 shots inside the arc in the first quarter. Staying within 20 only provided a momentary victory for Japan. Jaylen Brown swiped it away with a steal-and-slam to begin the second. He splashed a three, and found Donovan Mitchell inside in transition within the first three possessions.

Brown leapt from five to 22 minutes with Tatum out, dropping 20 points, seven rebounds and two steals.

Walker (5-for-11, 15 points, 8 assists) and Harris (4-for-6, 10 points) drained threes, and after a pair of free throws by Turner the US led 41-12. Three turnovers and more possessions from mid-range thwarted America through the middle possessions of the quarter, even as Japan struggled to break 10 points.

The offense flowed seamlessly through Walker, for two makes from Harrison Barnes and a reverse layup by Harris on the break. Walker capped the USA’s run of the frame with a three and 69-25 USA lead.

Rui Hachimura, the Wizards rookie and Japan’s greatest NBA pedigree, sparred with Brown for the dunk of the morning. Turner decided to rise up against Rui, who had turned the corner at the elbow, and Turner met a devastating finish to his face.

Brown posted his best work in the final quarter. Walker found him for three midway through the frame, then Turner swiped the ball from Joji Takeuchi and Brown tomahawk-slammed it through a defender in transition. He followed it with a scoop layup in transition.

The USA advances to face Giannis Antetokounmpo and Greece on Saturday in the World Cup’s second round.

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