Team USA has secured its spot in the quarterfinals of the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup with a 69-53 win over Giannis Antetokuonmpo and the Greek National Team.
Kemba Walker led the way for the Americans with a game-high 15 points (on 5-12 shooting) and six assists while Donovan Mitchell was the only other player for Team USA to finish in double figures with 10 points (on 4-10 shooting).
Giannis, who was the focal point of America's defence, matched Walker's game-high with 15 points (on 7-11 shooting) and added 13 rebounds but it ultimately wasn't enough to keep this one close. Greece was held to just 21-for-66 (31.8%) shooting from the field and 7-for-27 (25.9%) shooting from beyond the arc as it was stymied by Team USA's defensive efforts.
For more on how it all unfolded, here are a few takeaways from Team USA's big win.
While Team USA boasts the only roster comprised exclusively of NBA talent at the World Cup, the Greek National Team has arguably the best player in the tournament in reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Needless to say, this was a matchup that many had circled on their calendars.
As alluded to earlier, Team USA's defensive plan centred around Antetokounmpo, and while he finished with a 15-point, 13-rebound double-double, plays like this from Marcus Smart were what made things difficult for Giannis and ultimately, Greece as a whole.
Just watch the defensive effort from Marcus Smart on this play. Doesn't let Giannis get post position to start, fights to front to take away a catch (man did 4 spin moves) and still gets a contest on the shooter at the end of the possession. pic.twitter.com/gIHMfIakHS- Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) September 7, 2019
It was by committee as Smart, Jaylen Brown and Harrison Barnes are among the players that saw time dealing with the Greek Freak.
On a separate possession, Team USA forced an errant pass from Greek guard Nick Calathes by successfully fronting Antetokounmpo on the block to again disrupt Greece's rhythm and limit opportunity on the offensive end.
As the Americans continue their pursuit of gold, they will not encounter another force like Giannis; the team's ability to relatively limit him on the offensive end should be big for the development of more chemistry moving on.
Steady guard play
While Giannis was likely the most talented player in the game, Team USA's clear-cut advantage over Greece came on the perimeter.
Beyond being the only two Americans to finish in double figures, both Walker and Mitchell served as steadying forces on the offensive end with their patience, pace and playmaking for others.
The two combined to dish out nine assists and committed just four turnovers, with Walker turning the ball over just once. Mitchell, who could still work on his efficiency as he shot 2-for-8 from beyond the arc, was a team-high plus-21 in the box score.
Some of his improvements are illustrated here by Utah Jazz radio voice David Locke.
Donovan Mitchell had 10 pts, 5 rebounds and 3 assists. Bigger picture great signs of development from Donovan. Attacked basket with better control and avoided the turnovers or floaters. Nash dribbled on one play and kept his feet in paint and created three for White.- David Locke (@Lockedonsports) September 7, 2019
In addition to the starting backcourt, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Derrick White made their presence felt in various ways throughout the game. Team USA should continue to use the play of its guards to its advantage going forward.
With the Czech Republic earning a dominant win over Brazil, Team USA sits atop Group K with a flawless 4-0 record.
While Team USA has secured its spot in the quarterfinals, it still faces a tough test Monday morning as it takes on a Brazillian National Team that features NBA talent of the past, present and future.
Brazil has plenty to play for, as the quarterfinals are still in sight with a win over Team USA and a win by Greece.
For Greece, the road gets a bit tougher as it is set to take on a Czech Republic team that is riding on the momentum of its win over Brazil. Considered by some as a favourite outside of Team USA leading into the tournament, Greece must now win by at least 12 points on Monday and get help from Team USA in order to advance to the quarterfinal round.
Per ESPN's Brian Windhorst, Greek head coach Thanasis Skourtopoulo and Giannis Antetokounmop mutually agreed that he sit the final minutes of Saturday's game in order to be best prepared for the task at hand Monday.
It will be a big one.
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