Despite all the hand-wringing about the supposed lack of talent — we see you, Gilbert Arenas — and their youth — Team USA has the youngest roster in the FIBA World Cup, the Americans keeps rolling along, handily defeating Greece, 109-81 in a workmanlike effort. In winning their second game, Team USA is now assured of moving on to the second round this weekend.
The Nets “twins,” Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson, contributed a total of 17 points — nine by Bridges early and eight by Johnson late — as well as some tough defense. Bridges once again took on the opponents’ best player, in this case, Thomas Walkup, and shutting him down. Walkup, a Stephen F. Austin product, finished with nine points.
Unlike some of their exhibition games and the opening win against New Zealand, Team USA didn’t take long to dominate their opponent, getting out to a lead early and holding it from then on. Bridges was a big part of the early going, scoring five points and handing out an assist in the opening quarter, which ended with the U.S. up, 23-19. For the game, Bridges (who will celebrate his 27th birthday Wednesday in Manila), finished with one rebounds and three assist, while shooting 4-of-6 overall, 1-of-3 from deep, in 19 minutes.
Johnson got his chance late in the game after the U.S. had rolled up a big lead. He finished with eight points on 2-of-7 shooting, 2-of-4 from beyond the arc. He also recorded a rebound, assist and a steal.
Austin Reaves led a balanced scoring effort with 15 points. Jalen Brunson and Anthony Edwards each scored 13 for the Americans while Bobby Portis had 10 points and Josh Hart grabbed 11 rebounds.
Again, it was the Americans’ depth — and cohesion — that separated them from an opponent.
“We’re 12 deep on our roster and we’re just trying to stay solid on every possession and put pressure on the opponent,” Kerr said. “We needed to do that tonight. ... Eventually, we broke the dam and opened up the game.
“This team is amazing to coach,” Kerr added. “I mean, we were just saying in the locker room, this isn’t normal, to have 12 guys who are all pulling for each other every single day, regardless of how many minutes someone plays, how many points they score, every single guy is all in. We’re having so much fun every day. This is a special experience and I’m just so happy to be part of it.”
Post-game, Bridges told Sportskeeda that he’s thought about an on-court reunion with his teammate’s from Villanova’s NCAA championships, Hart and Jalen Brunson of the Knicks.
“I feel we have some lineups like that,” said Bridges. “I think we have good chemistry. But yeah, I think we have to trust Steve Kerr. He’s a great coach. But yeah, if he wants to put us out there altogether, I think it’ll be a good thing.”
Bridges spoke as well about his relationship with Austin Reaves of the Lakers.
“I think just the personalities and stuff, it was basically the first day, it was just he’s cool and just stupid making jokes and stuff, and it just built from there,” Bridges said. “He’s a nut. He’s a goof, and just know that it’s always him. He plays too much. Obviously, I play around and make some jokes too.”
Team USA’s next game will be against Jordan and former Net Rondae Hollis-Jefferson who scored 39 in an overtime loss to New Zealand. RHJ, still only 28, tied the game at the buzzer to send the game into OT.
The Americans will then play Lithuania and Montenegro — in some order — on Friday and Sunday in Round 2. The goal, of course, remains the gold.
“We just keep on, one game at a time — and, hopefully, six more.” said Kerr.
- Box Score: Team USA 109, Greece 81 - FIBA
- Game Highlights: Team USA 109, Greece 81 (Video) - FIBA
- US eases past Greece 109-81 at Basketball World Cup to advance to the second round - Tim Reynolds - AP
- Team USA defeats Greece, advances to FIBA World Cup second round - Joe Vardon - The Athletic
- Team USA routs Greece to reach second round of FIBA World Cup - Brian Windhorst - ESPN
- “He’s a goof”: Mikal Bridges opens up about his strong bond with Austin Reaves on Team USA - Tristan Rawcliffe - Sportskeeda