Boston Celtics

Celtics stars prove their value in Team USA's win over Canada

Jayson Tatum and Jrue Holiday made their presence felt in Las Vegas.

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We can debate whether Jaylen Brown should have replaced Kawhi Leonard on Team USA instead of Derrick White. But there's no debating that the two Boston Celtics already on the roster will play an important role in the Americans' quest for gold at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Jayson Tatum and Jrue Holiday both delivered strong showings in Team USA's first exhibition game Wednesday night against Team Canada, an 86-72 win in front of a star-studded crowd in Las Vegas.

Here are game stats and highlights from both players and a look at how they made their mark in the exhibition opener:

Jayson Tatum

Final stat line: 17 minutes, eight points (4-of-7), one rebound, two assists, one block, one steal, +14

Tatum came off the bench and made an immediate impact, driving strong to the basket late in the first quarter for his first points.

Later in the first half, Tatum showcased the offensive skill set that makes him virtually unstoppable as a scorer when he's not facing double-teams.

Notably, the three-time First-Team All-NBA selection didn't attempt a 3-pointer Wednesday, doing most of his work at the rim. Tatum is at his best when he's attacking the basket, so if he continues to see single coverage given Team USA's wealth of talent, expect to see more layups and fewer 3s from Tatum in Paris.

Tatum, who averaged a team-leading 6.3 assists per game in the 2024 postseason, also flashed his playmaking ability in the third quarter with a nifty pass to Anthony Davis. He showed up defensively as well with a steal and a block.

While Tatum's stats don't jump off the page, it was a well-rounded performance from the NBA champion that showcased his ability to make an impact as a scorer, playmaker and defender.

Jrue Holiday

Final stat line: 20 minutes, 11 points (5-for 8; 1-for-3 3PT), five rebounds, four assists, two blocks, +11

Head coach Steve Kerr gave Holiday the start, and the two-time NBA champion responded with an elite two-way performance.

Holiday was his efficient self on offense, going 4 for 5 on 2-point attempts while handing out four assists. But he made his biggest impact as a defender, hounding Canada stars Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jamal Murry while tallying a pair of blocks.

USA Basketball director Grant Hill said on Wednesday's broadcast that having Holiday on the roster was a "top priority" because of his "point of attack defense," and Holiday certainly showcased that in this game.

The six-time All-Defensive selection is one of the best on-ball defenders in the world, and his ability to lock up one of the strongest backcourts Team USA will see in Gilgeous-Alexander and Murray reinforces his value to a squad that can dominate in Paris if it plays above-average defense.

There are plenty of mouths to feed on this loaded American roster, so don't expect to be wowed by Tatum and Holiday's stats in any game. But Wednesday night was proof that they're both integral to Team USA's success in Paris.

The Americans' next exhibition is in Abu Dhabi against Australia on Monday, with White expected to join the squad prior to that matchup.

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