fb-pixel
Jayson Tatum has averaged 10.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in 24.5 minutes in two games for the US.
Jayson Tatum has averaged 10.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in 24.5 minutes in two games for the US.Lintao Zhang/Getty/Getty Images

SHENZHEN, China — Jayson Tatum returned to practice with the US men’s basketball team Monday, less than a week after he sprained his left ankle.

He did not play Monday when the US team (5-0) closed World Cup second-round action with a win over Brazil. With the win, the United States qualified for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

It is unclear whether Tatum will be ready for a quarterfinal against France on Wednesday.

‘‘I hope I can play,’’ Tatum said. ‘‘There’s no timetable or anything. I'm just trying to get back right.’’

Tatum said he went through the entire US shootaround in advance of the Brazil game, able to run and cut without difficulty.

Advertisement



‘‘Felt good,’’ Tatum said.

The Celtics forward sprained the ankle in the final seconds of overtime in last week’s 93-92 win over Turkey. He was hurt when he set up Khris Middleton for what became the winning free throws. Tatum had made two of three free throws with 0.1 seconds left in regulation, forcing overtime.

Tatum started the first two games of the tournament, averaging 10.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in 24.5 minutes.

‘‘When it first happened, I was upset,’’ Tatum said. ‘‘I didn’t want to miss any games. But it’s nothing significant.’’

US coach Gregg Popovich did not have an update on when Tatum could return, though seeing him on the floor Monday was a good sign.

‘‘It’s encouraging,’’ Popovich said.

Kemba Walker and Myles Turner each scored 16 points as the Americans earned a top seed for the quarterfinals. Jaylen Brown scored 11 and Harrison Barnes added 10

With the win, the United States won’t have to go through any extra qualifying next summer for the Olympics.

‘‘We’re thrilled that we've qualified for the Olympics,’’ said Popovich, who will lead the Americans next summer as well. ‘‘With this new situation in qualifying, you don’t want to do that every year. That’s a pretty big grind.’’

Advertisement



It was a win three nations could celebrate: The US victory also clinched an Olympic spot for Argentina and a quarterfinal spot for the Czech Republic. The Czechs moved on despite losing earlier Monday to NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and Greece.

The Czech Republic grabbed the last place in the round of eight via a three-team, points-differential tiebreaker over Greece and Brazil after they all went 3-2 in group play.

‘‘It’s already been a dream,’’ Czech guard Tomas Satoransky said.

Greece defeated the Czech Republic, 84-77, in Shenzhen, an outcome that meant the United States went into the Brazil game already with a spot in the quarters.

All that was at stake was seeding and where it was going, either to nearby Dongguan by bus or back on a plane to Shanghai.

Get the bus ready. France, a 100-98 loser to Australia on Monday, awaits the US on Wednesday in the quarterfinals.

Other quarterfinal matchups: Spain vs. Poland and Serbia vs. Argentina on Tuesday, and Australia vs. the Czech Republic on Wednesday.

The US squad pushed its winning streak (with NBA players) in major international tournaments — Olympics, World Cup, and FIBA Americas — to 58 games.

The US team opened on a 14-7 run, then led by as many as 8 late in the half — yet went into the break with only a 43-39 lead, unable to shake Brazil despite shooting 55 percent in the opening 20 minutes thanks largely to Walker and Turner. They were 9 for 11 in the half from the floor combined, while their teammates were 9 for 22.

Advertisement



Eventually, the Americans pulled away.

Marcus Smart’s buzzer-beating, hand-in-his-face 3-pointer to beat the third quarter horn put the Americans up 11, and a 15-6 run to start the fourth — mostly by getting to the rim, including back-to-back scores by Barnes, and capped by a 3-pointer from Walker — put the game away and gave the Americans an 83-62 lead with 5:50 left.

‘‘For most of the game, we played them tough,’’ Brazil forward Anderson Varejao said. ‘‘But in the end, we couldn’t keep up.’’