Sometimes the best setting is just to play better.
The United States brought defensive intensity from the open tip. Jalen Branson He did not get comfortable in the game and was a force early on. Mikal bridges Apparently he hit every shot he took in the first half. The U.S. backline’s ball pressure and defensive turns were sharper, and the resulting stops led to transition opportunities, where the athletic Americans thrived.
Their loss to Lithuania It clearly served as a wake-up call for Team USA, which played its best game of the World Cup on Tuesday. The Americans used their size and athleticism to overwhelm a solid Italian team and run away with a 63-100 victory.
With the win, the U.S. advances to the World Cup semifinals, where it will face the winner of Germany and Latvia in Venezuela on Friday.
The USA played better, but also ran into an Italian team that wasn’t as good at exploiting their weaknesses as Lithuania (or Serbia, which beat Lithuania in Tuesday’s quarterfinals). The Americans also didn’t hit a team that hit their first nine 3-pointers or shoot better than 50 percent from beyond the arc, which helped.
Some things seemed the same for the US – Jaren Jackson Jr He committed two fouls less than three minutes into the game (one on a miscommunication on a pick-and-roll switch, which caused him to chase and foul the roll man under the basket, one on a questionable offensive foul). The second Jackson was out, forcing Italy into a substitution, Paolo Banchero hit a 3 in his place.
The U.S. just got their defensive intensity from there, though, and the ball pressure plagued the Italians as they held just a 62.6 offensive rating in the first half (via Joe Weary).
Athleticism on the ball was never the Americans’ biggest problem, not sending help early on mismatches in the post after the switch (there is no illegal defense in FIBA, help can come early, a habit NBA players are slow to adapt to). The Americans were much sharper in this game.
Bridges led the way with 24 points and Tyrese Halliburton had a World Cup best with 18 points and 5 assists. Austin Reeves added a dozen and had one of the highlight plays of the night.
The U.S. needs to carry that intensity all the way – the teams ahead are better than Italy and better built to test the U.S.’s weaknesses. More efforts like this should be done to win gold.
One more note: Paolo Banchero was booed by the Italian cheering section when he was introduced (no, they didn’t say “Paolooooooo”). As a rising star in the United States, before Covid, he was supposed to play for the Italian national team, but it never happened due to the pandemic. By the time it was over, he was playing at Duke — with his close relationship with former Team USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski — prompting Banchero to rethink his international allegiances. He eventually chose to play for the United States. That one still stings in Italy.