The 2019 FIBA World Cup is just a couple of days old, and so far it has gone according to the script. 15 of the 16 teams that are ranked in the top 20 of the FIBA World Rankings won their opening game. Number 20 Venzuala is the only team that failed to win its first game as they fell to number 25 Poland 80-69. Only four of the first 16 games have been decided by single digits.
Team USA Takes Down the Czech Republic in FIBA World Cup Play
Team USA Uses a Balanced Attack to Open Tournament 1-0
The United States national team, which is the top-ranked team in the world, got off to a strong start in the competition with an 88-67 victory over the Czech Republic. Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell led four starters in double-figures with 16 points. Sacramento Kings’ Harrison Barnes and Boston Celtics’ Kemba Walker contributed 14 points apiece. The Celtics’ Jayson Tatum was the fourth player in double-figures with 10 points. Meanwhile, Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner topped the team with seven rebounds.
The opening quarter was a “feel out” period with both teams making runs. The U.S. scored the first five points of the game and led 7-2 before the Czech Republic got anything going. Once the Czechs finally figured things out, they strung together nine straight points to take an 11-7 lead with 5:17 left. However, the Americans concluded the first period by scoring 10 of the final 13 points to take a 17-14 lead.
The second quarter was a different story for the United States as they wretched up the defense. The U.S. opened the stanza by going on a 15-4 run, as six different players scored, to increase its lead to 32-18. While the Czechs outscored the Americans the remainder of the period, the U.S. still held a 43-29 halftime advantage.
The Czechs didn’t fold in the second half. Still, the Americans won each of the last two quarters as well. The U.S. outscored the Czechs by a combined seven points (45-38) in the second half.
“It was a very competitive game, physical, opportunity to learn a lot,” USA and San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said following the game. “The game is a little bit different, obviously from the NBA. A lot of great teams and just an opportunity to get better.”
Top Key to the Victory
Defense is likely going to be the American’s calling card this tournament. Which is unlike most of the previous World Cups as the U.S. doesn’t have the offensive power that they generally have.
“I thought defensively, we were great,” Walker said. “Whenever we slowed down our pace, we were much better.
The U.S. wasn’t great on the defensive end. But they did hold the Czechs to less than 20 points in each quarter and under 70 for the game. Granted Tomas Satoransky was the team’s only player with NBA experience.
The USA held the Czechs to the 11th fewest points and 11th lowest field goal percentage in all of the tournament. They also limited the Czech’s to just 39.1 percent shooting on two-point field goal percentage and 28 points in the paint. Plus, the Americans forced 22 turnovers, recorded six blocks and were only whistled for 17 fouls. Additionally, the U.S. registered the seventh-best defensive deficiency of the first two days at 64.
Other Significant Determinants for the Win
Depth and Versatility
The U.S.’s depth will be crucial throughout the whole event. The Americans are the only team in the competition who have a full roster of current NBA players. And all 12 players averaged at least 20 minutes a game last season. Therefore, Popovich won’t likely have any problem going to any of the players. Not only are the U.S. players experienced, but they are also versatile on both ends of the floor. Each member of the team can play at least two positions and Lopez, Mason Plumlee and Turner are the only players that play at least three different spots.
This depth came in handy against the Czechs as all 12 saw at least five minutes of action and none saw more than 26. All 12 participants grabbed at least one rebound, and 11 players recorded a point.
All totaled, the U.S.’s bench was responsible for 35.2 percent (31) of the team’s points, 64.1 percent (25) of the rebounds, and 55.5 percent (10) of the assists. Middleton led the way for the reserves with eight points, four caroms, two assists along with a steal in 16 minutes of action. He was 3-for-6 from the floor, including 2-for-4 from the 3-pt line.
🔄 Khris spins, Middleton scores
— USA Basketball (@usabasketball) September 1, 2019
Transition and Limiting Turnovers
The U.S. is likely going to have used their athleticism and defense to generate offense. As Mitchell and Walker are the only players capable of creating their own offense.
The Americans turned the Czech’s turnovers into 22 points. They also registered six steals and 15 fastbreak points. Additionally, Team USA outscored the Czechs 44-28 in points in the paint.
On the other hand, the U.S. only committed seven turnovers. The Czechs were only able to convert those turnovers into seven points and none came in transition.
Areas of Improvement
Getting to the Line
The U.S. only attempted six free throws against the Czech Republic, which is the second-fewest after one game. This needs to increase, but the U.S. only drew 15 fouls (sixth-fewest) in the game.
Since the Americans’ game is predicated on getting to the basket, six free attempts won’t be enough when they move onto the medal stage.
The problem is Walker and Mitchell are the only players that have shown a propensity of getting to the free-throw line. Both players are the only members of the squad to attempt at least five free throw attempts a game during the regular season.
The U.S. grabbed only seven of 37 possible offensive rebounds for an awful 18.7 percent. Not only did they not hit the offensive boards well, the Americans only turned those limited opportunities into two second-chance points.
The U.S. (1-0) will face Turkey (1-0) on Wednesday in Shanghai, China, with tipoff set for 8:30 a.m. EST. Turkey defeated Japan (0-1) 86-67 on Sunday.
Embed from Getty Images