Team USA topped Spain 90-81 in an exhibition game Friday and showed what fans they should expect in this year’s FIBA World Cup.
There was speculation that USA Basketball could struggle on the international stage after James Harden, Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard and a host of other NBA stars elected to abstain from participating in the competition.
However, Team USA’s victory over one of the field’s more talented squads should have some effect on that notion.
Here are three takeaways from Team USA’s win:
Team USA guards are running the show
Kemba Walker is the only player on Team USA’s roster who has made an All-Star team. The Celtics guard even made his first appearance on the All-NBA first-team in 2018-19 following his final season with the Hornets.
He did a great job initiating his team’s offense, notching 11 points, six rebounds and eight assists on 57.1 percent shooting. Walker, who led USA Basketball in rebounding and assists, also tallied two steals and will certainly be one of USA basketball’s most important pieces moving forward.
Kemba hesi! 😮 pic.twitter.com/TL84zMPnoI
— NBA (@NBA) August 17, 2019
Walker isn’t vocal very often, but he explained his approach to leading the team after the contest.
“Just by being myself. I’m not really a big talking guy. So, I just try to lead by example, set the tone early and do what I can to help this team. That’s it,” Walker said.
Then there’s Donovan Mitchell, who many believe is poised to make a major jump this summer. The third-year Jazz guard took a team-high 10 shot attempts and lead the American side in scoring, posting 13 points. He looked like he belonged and was given free rein to pick his spots and make plays.
— NBA (@NBA) August 17, 2019
Only Walker, Mitchell and Jayson Tatum played more than 20 minutes on the night, and Mitchell led the way with 23. It appears the backcourt’s effectiveness will determine how well Team USA performances.
Team USA’s rebounding isn’t as bad as we thought
Not a single player on this year’s roster averaged double-digit rebounds in the 2018-19 NBA season, but Team USA dominated Spain on the glass.
While 6-1 Kemba Walker probably shouldn’t be the player leading the team in rebounding, Team USA finished with a 42-20 advantage in that department.
“I loved our rebounding,” Mitchell told reporters. “I think that was one thing we struggled with against the select team in Vegas, our rebounding, our transition defense. But as we got fatigued, we stopped talking, stopping doing our thing. But if we can sustain that for four quarters, we will be in good shape.”
Don’t expect any individual to put up big numbers for USA basketball, but Friday’s group effort helped limit Marc Gasol to four rebounds in nearly 23 minutes. Not too shabby.
U.S. decision-making could use improvement
Yes the U.S. beat the second-ranked team in the FIBA World Cup, but there were a lot of hiccups on the offensive side of the ball along the way.
Spain managed to rack up a staggering 16 steals on Friday, and its poor shooting was a major contributor to its downfall. It shot just 40.8% from the field, and it’s unlikely that will happen again if the two teams meet down the road.
Team USA had a lot of moving pieces this summer, but now that it has a core group, it needs to buckle down and reduce mental lapses.
“It’s not a 48-minute game where you can have a couple of lapses when you know you can bounce back,” Bucks wing Khris Middleton said. “In this tournament, it’s a shortened game. So we have to be on top of it for those 40 minutes and execute and no mental lapses or anything like that.”