A fast start was all the USA men’s national team needed to remain unbeaten as they keep moving closer to the Fiba Basketball World Cup.
Anthony Edwards scored 21 points, Cam Johnson added 13 and the US never trailed Friday in a 108-86 win over Greece in a World Cup tune-up game for both teams.
Austin Reaves and Jaren Jackson Jr each had 11 for the US, who improved to 4-0 in their five-game exhibition season before flying to the Philippines next week to start World Cup play. The Americans had all 12 players score, and Mikal Bridges and Bobby Portis each finished with 10 points.
“I feel like we got it going pretty good,” Edwards said.
Greece are playing without Giannis Antetokounmpo, the two-time NBA MVP for Milwaukee who is sidelined this summer while recovering from offseason knee surgery. Panagiotis Kalaitzakis and Nikos Rogkavopoulos each scored 12 for Greece. Thomas Walkup and Georgios Papagiannis added 11 apiece.
“These games, these friendlies, they’re glorified practices,” Walkup said. “That’s what they are. Of course you want to win, but we want to come out here to compete, get better, fix things.”
Greece, even without Antetokounmpo, figure to be the top competition for the US when group-stage play starts at the World Cup next weekend. Greece are the No 9 team in the Fiba rankings; New Zealand are No 26 and Jordan are No 33.
The top two finishers in each group move to the second round. Not surprisingly, the race in Group C seems like it will be for second place after the way this exhibition turned out.
The Americans – just as they did at times in their first three exhibitions against Puerto Rico, a Slovenia team playing without Luka Dončić and Spain – looked dominant in some stretches. They had a double-digit lead midway through the first quarter, were up by 17 by the time the game was 9 minutes old and never seemed in any trouble.
That said, there are two big areas that worry US coach Steve Kerr.
“The concern is turnovers and rebounds,” Kerr said. “If we stay even on the possession game, I feel great about our chances against anybody. The way teams can beat us is if they get extra possessions and force a lot of turnovers and we’re not sharp and we’re not boxing out. I’ve told our guys that. I’ll tell you guys that. It’s not really a secret. So, that’s our focus.”
The US only outscored Greece 76-71 over the final 31 minutes – in large part because of 20 turnovers.
“They let up a little bit, for sure,” Walkup said. “We’re aware of that. We’re not tricking ourselves.”
Source: The Guardian