USA Basketball’s road to the World Cup has been very unofficial so far, with Puerto Rico and Slovenia without Luka Donjic.
The test they needed came on Sunday when Team USA took on Spain in Málarga (a Spanish Mediterranean port city) — this is the reigning World Cup champion and a team with a real chance of medaling this year. In addition, Spain was playing at home with a buzzing crowd.
Team USA passed this test with a solid B+. Jalen Brunson took over again, scoring 21 points on 9-of-9 shooting, helping the USA pull away in the fourth quarter to beat Spain 98-88.
This was a very close game (Spain led by a bucket after the first quarter), but American execution not only won this game, it holds promise for the future—the Americans shot 56% on three-pointers, and 67% overall. Spain maintained 42%. This type of shooting will keep Americans comfortable most nights.
Jaren Jackson Jr. added 14 points for the USA, Michal Bridges added 12, and three players – Brandon Ingram, Austin Revis and Anthony Edwards – scored 11 points each.
Tyrese Haliburton had 12 assists for the USA while Bronson added five – the USA team’s ball movement is still strong at times, but the team is sloppy at other points and the turnovers helped Spain make and stay in the running. The Spaniards also had plenty of second chance points, something Team USA needed to clean up the streak.
Team USA is now heading to Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, for two more World Cup matches against Germany and then Greece. Without Giannis Antikonmo. Next, I moved to Manila, where the USA team opened the World Cup on August 26 with group play. American basketball is in a group that includes Greece, New Zealand and Jordan.