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Team USA uses big fourth quarter to beat Spain as ‘Twins’ combine for 21

Mikal Bridges scored 12, including five in the fourth, and Cam Johnson went 3-of-3 from deep to finish with nine in the key match-up

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2023 FIBA World Cup - USA v Spain Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson scored a combined 21 points Sunday as Team USA beat Spain in a much anticipated “friendly” game vs. Spain, 98-88. The win gave the Americans a 3-0 record in tune-ups as they head to the United Arab Emirates for exhibition games vs. Greece and Germany next weekend.

Bridges scored 12 and Johnson nine, with Bridges in particular contributing key baskets in the fourth as the U.S. pulled away from Spain. The two combined where 5-of-5 from deep. Spain had been ranked No. 1 in FIBA world rankings before Sunday.

After the game, Bridges said, the win was big because his team kept “grinding” all night...

Bridges, who started for the third time, picked up two quick fouls, one for unsportsmanlike conduct. Then after some time on the bench, he came back strong on both ends and played a key role, scoring five of his 12 points in the fourth. Team USA players compared the atmosphere in Malaga to an NBA playoff game with 11,000 Spaniards cheering on the home club in unison.

“I feel like all of us, we all live for the road games,” said Bridges post-game. “Every time we see each other, I always say like, ‘I love playing against y’all at your spot.’ … This was crazy. I mean, that third quarter when they went off, when they started to turn it up and walking us down, just it was, wow.

“Atmosphere is contagious. And that’s funny. I was talking to my teammates about playing in the national championship, playing in the (NBA) finals is just a different type of atmosphere,” said Bridges who has experienced both. “And this is like one thing that you dream of, and we aren’t even in the stadium in the Philippines.”

“But even coming here and being in Spain, this ridiculous man,” Bridges added. “I’m happy I’m a part of this, happy I’m going through this.”

Bridges also praised Team USA’s coaching staff for its preparation.

“A lot of trust in our coaches,” Bridges said. “They prepared us really well, they got the scout(ing report). Puerto Rico is different from Spain and we have the utmost confidence and trust in our coaches that they are going to prepare us every night. All we can do is go out there and play as hard as we can.”

The Americans entered the second half with a 10-point lead but quickly saw it slip away as the Spaniards opened the third with a 9-0 run, fueled by the first of nine turnovers in the quarter. Johnson ended the run with a three. He finished a perfect 3-of-3 from behind the arc.

The fourth was a closer affair with Spain going up by one. But the U.S. led by Jalen Brunson of the Knicks, who finished with 22, and Jaren Jackson Jr. of the Grizzlies who contributed 14, put the game out of reach. Brunson, who’s fast becoming the leader of the young and inexperienced American squad, was 9-of- 9 overall.

The Nets social media account isolated highlights of the two Brooklynites...

In the three games thus far, Bridges is averaging 11.7 points, Johnson 10.7.

Team USA is scheduled to depart Malaga Monday for Abu Dhabi, where they will play the final tune-ups vs. Greece on Friday, then Germany on Sunday. Both games will tip off at noon on FOX. The Americans open World Cup play August 26 vs. New Zealand in Manila.