First real test awaits Team USA in Fiba World Cup second round


Team USA’s Mikal Bridges celebrates after making a 3-pointer against Jordan in the Fiba World Cup. -FIBA PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—After unsurprisingly dusting off its competition in the group phase, Team USA expects to face stiffer challenge in the second round of the Fiba World Cup.

The Americans on Tuesday played like the favorites that they are and were just on a much different level than the Jordanians, on their way to a 110-62 victory at Mall of Asia Arena.

The wire-to-wire win capped a sweep of Group C, which the United States dominated by an average winning margin of 34, following blowouts over New Zealand and Greece.

But it gets much tougher from here with European power Lithuania and up-and-comer Montenegro waiting in the second round.

“We gotta lock in and go to battle. We know it’s not gonna be easy, we know they’re both good teams so we gotta go to battle and put our best foot forward,” said guard Austin Reaves, who’s emerged as one of the top players for Team USA.

Like the US, Lithuania, which is anchored by New Orleans Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas, also stamped its class in Group D.

Montenegro finished second to Lithuania in the group but is not to be overlooked especially with Chicago Bulls star center Nikola Vucevic at its disposal.

Jaren Jackson Jr. Team USA Fiba World Cup

Team USA’s Jaren Jackson Jr. dunks against Jordan in the Fiba World Cup. -FIBA PHOTO

“That’s gonna be tough games. They’re talented teams and they’ve been playing together and we just got to be ready for them,” said US center Jaren Jackson Jr., the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year, who will be tested against Valanciunas and Vucevic.

Team USA played its best game against Jordan where it dominated right from the get-go—something it failed to do in its first two games.

A confident Anthony Edwards, who fired 22 points including a breakaway windmill dunk in the third quarter, claimed a Team USA victory in this World Cup.

Nothing wrong with that as long as they don’t get ahead of themselves considering they still need five more wins to bring the title back to the US, which it hasn’t done since 2014 with a team that has the likes of Kyrie Irving, Steph Curry, Anthony Davis and James Harden.

“It’s gonna be a tough fight. They’re really good teams, really well-coached. so we just gotta prepare for them and be ready,” said swingman Mikal Bridges, who was part of the starting unit that set the tone.

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