FIBA – Team USA got into their zone on Monday and was able to smother Team Canada 84-68 in a pre-World Cup tuneup game.
In a game that could have been dubbed a “Battle of North America,” the US squad still showed that they struggled to play against a zone defense in the first half.
They weren’t able to rely on their superior individual skills against a practiced Canadian defense at first, struggling to find easy opportunities to score and often settling with forced shots.
Kemba Walker and Donovan Mitchell managed to keep the game close for Team USA, while Khem Birch used his physicality and aggressiveness to make some solid plays for Canada in the paint. He was able to out-hustle Myles Turner for some rebounds and was also active on the offensive end of the floor.
USA Basketball was able to do enough to set up a 46-31 advantage at halftime and did not relinquish the lead at any point in the game. After the break, it was smooth sailing for the Americans, who were able to protect their lead and crash the boards to keep momentum on their side.
While Canada’s defense kept them from being blown out early, they struggled finding their shot, making just 12-of-43 from the field. Their outside shooting was also just as dry with the Canadians connecting on just 3-for-14 from long range.
Both squads were missing many top-tier national players, all of whom begged off from participating in the tournament, either due to injuries or to a desire to prepare for the upcoming 2019-20 season. Canada’s roster would have looked completely different had NBA players Kelly Olynyk, Jamal Murray, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, R.J. Barrett, Chris Boucher and Andrew Wiggins were able to participate and play for the team. USA is also missing veterans LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Paul George and James Harden.
Kyle Wiltjer dropped a game-high 21 points to lead Canada, while Jaylen Brown paced USA with 19 points of his own. Myles Turner shrugged off a sluggish start and wound up finishing the game with 10 points, 15 rebounds and two blocked shots.
Will Team USA be able to fend off other nations hungry for that ever-elusive FIBA World Cup gold? Serbia has been dubbed as their likely toughest rivals, while Greece’s efforts will be spearheaded by reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Buckle up, folks! The FIBA World Cup is but a few winks away. Get ready to enjoy some amazing and thrilling basketball action.