Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum have good reason to look on the bright side of a potential setback.
The Boston Celtics players stressed the positive aspects of the U.S. men’s national basketball team’s overtime win over Turkey on Tuesday in the FIBA World Cup. The U.S. trailed with 12.3 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter but forced overtime. Turkey then led with under nine seconds left in the extra period, but the U.S. capitalized on opportunities its opponent missed to secure a 93-92 victory.
The narrow win prompted some fretting among Team USA’s critics, but Walker praised the squad’s positive attitude amid adversity.
“Being together, spending this much time together really showed tonight,” he said after the game, per USA Basketball’s website. “We didnât give up on any possession. We didnât give up on each other. We stayed together and came out with a huge win. That was an unbelievable game to be a part of. Like I said, I couldnât be more happy that we are the ones that came out on the winning end.”
Tatum, who sprained his left ankle late in overtime, explained why he and his teammates were so happy to have beaten Turkey.
“Weâre not going to win every game by 30 or 40,” he said. “Turkey is a great team, and theyâve been playing together for a while. This is good for us. It was a tough game, tough battle, a lot of guys gave second, third, fourth efforts. We learned a lot about ourselves tonight, especially being in a tough environment like this. This is a big win, but we have a lot to improve on.”
After speaking to reporters, Tatum shared his appreciation for Team USA’s mentality more succinctly via Twitter.
Team USA will conclude Group E play Thursday when it takes on Japan. The U.S. already has clinched a place in the medal second round, where the competition will be tougher. Perhaps this early stage is the perfect time for Team USA to demonstrate the togetherness that will be necessary to win a third consecutive World Cup.