Team USA coach Gregg Popovich’s hilarious advice to Jayson Tatum that sparked 27-point eruption
Team USA held on for a big 119-84 win over the Czech Republic on Saturday to march their way into the quarterfinals of the Tokyo Olympics. While it was an impressive team performance, it was Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum who led the charge with an international career-high 27 points.
Speaking to reporters after the game, Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich revealed the hilarious advice he gave Tatum which sparked his big performance, via Eurohoops:
“I just told him I said, ‘act like you’re playing the Spurs.’ Because every time we play him, he scores like 90, so it seemed to work.”
In case you forgot, Tatum dropped 60 points in April against Pop’s San Antonio, coming back from a 32-point deficit to secure the victory. Popovich also went on to praise his development with Team USA since the 2019 FIBA World Cup a couple of years ago:
“Obviously, he’s more confident,” Popovich said. “But I think he makes better choices, decision-making-wise, whether it’s time to, you know he’s hit a couple and his next catch, he drives it. While he’s driving it, he can find a Team USA teammate. So he drives, he attacks for himself and for a teammate at the same time, and he didn’t do that in the very beginning in the league. He was just a scorer. But now, he’s valuable because he does the other things. He’s starting to rebound better. We’re telling them that it’s important. We’re not that big, and so we do need him on the board.”
Tatum’s brilliance with the Celtics has definitely carried over to Team USA, as shown in their final group stage game. Next, the States will face a much tough opponent in either Spain, Luka Doncic’s Slovenia, or Italy in the quarterfinals.