US basketball, while popular at the FIBA ​​World Cup, is not infallible

As Austin Reaves threw a transition dunk to seal USA Basketball’s show win over Germany on Sunday, Tyrese Haliburton and Paolo Banchero swung their arms and leapt across the court in Abu Dhabi, unable to contain their excitement.

There was much joy in the celebrations, but also relief. After all, USA Basketball was 16 points down in the third quarter and down to nine points with less than seven minutes left in their FIBA ​​World Championship prep. The determined Germans, led by NBA players Franz Wagner and Dennis Schröder, had won the rebound battle, found clean paths to the basket and messed up the Americans’ ball movement with a zone defense.

Were it not for a third-quarter rampage by Haliburton and an impressive late-game takeover by Anthony Edwards, USA Basketball’s 5-0 win in the friendlies would have been spoiled by an opponent not ranked in the top 10 in the FIBA ​​world rankings. The “Dream Team” rarely worked a sweat, and they’ve never played with fire like this.

USA Basketball’s Road to the FIBA ​​World Championship Explained

Still, the Americans’ final 22-5 win against Germany had some praise for it: Edwards acted calmly and effectively while the game was on the line, the team’s defensive intensity increased over time and coach Steve Kerr landed on the right final lineup. Importantly, while the Americans were beatable, they appeared fully invested in their pursuit of gold at the FIBA ​​World Championships, which kick off Friday in the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia.

“Our goal is to be really comfortable with FIBA ​​rules, style of play and physical condition by the end of the tournament in the Philippines,” Kerr said in Spain last week. “[We want to] Make sure we take care of all those details, then let our talent unfold. We rate our chances really well if we can do that.”

Exhibition victories over Puerto Rico, Slovenia, Spain, Greece and Germany boosted confidence, although Luka Doncic missed out for Slovenia and Giannis Antetokounmpo skipped the tournament for Greece. USA Basketball won its five games by averaging 22.6 points, overcoming turnover difficulties in several games and surviving second-half deficits against Spain and Germany while lacking a roster utterly lacking in previous international experience.

The Americans’ concerted effort throughout their tournament series reflected a determination and camaraderie that was noticeably absent from USA Basketball’s seventh-place finish at the 2019 tournament in China. Since opening training camp in Las Vegas this month, Kerr has cultivated a loose culture, made Edwards an alpha scorer and received excellent input from a highly intelligent second unit led by Haliburton and Reaves. Edwards averaged 18.8 points per game, including 34 points in Germany’s win, while Haliburton averaged 8.6 points and 7.4 assists per game from the bench.

“We know we have to dig deep,” Kerr said. “We think we have more good players than the rest of the teams.”

Steve Kerr brings fresh vibes but a familiar, steady hand to US basketball

That will certainly be the case in USA Basketball’s upcoming group stage games against New Zealand (No. 26 in the world) on Saturday, Greece (No. 9) on Monday and Jordan (No. 33) on Wednesday. After Antetokounmpo recovered from minor knee surgery in July, the Americans, who are second in the world rankings behind Spain, are expected to be 3-0 in Group C.

USA Basketball would then face two opponents from Group D, which consists of Egypt (No. 55), Lithuania (No. 8), Mexico (No. 31) and Montenegro (No. 18), before moving on to the K. -o.-round moves in. Lithuanian star Domantas Sabonis opted to sit out the tournament after thumb surgery, defusing another early threat for the Americans.

In addition to a relatively easy route to the eight-team knockout stages, USA Basketball will enjoy the benefit of spending the entire three-week tournament in Manila. Slovenia, Germany and Australia will open group games in Japan, while Spain, France and Canada will start in Indonesia before the eight quarter-finalists meet in the Philippines.

While the Americans remain the big favorites to win the gold medal on September 10, tough tests will be inevitable as the 32-man field tightens for the unrelenting knockout stages. Doncic is the tournament’s biggest single talent, France and Australia have beaten USA basketball in recent years and Canada, led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, is brimming with NBA talent. Meanwhile, Spain and Germany proved this month they have the weapons to make life miserable for a thin American front line led by Jaren Jackson Jr.

To make up for its small size, USA Basketball will seek to create a relentless identity based on outside defense, transition play, ball movement, and outside shots. Central to this approach is Edwards, 22, who combines explosive athleticism, skillful shooting and raw ambition.

“I just wanted to play [for USA Basketball] because Kobe [Bryant] “I played in it and Michael Jordan played in it,” Edwards said. “These are the best players. You have to do what they do.”

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