The United States men’s basketball team closed out its five-game exhibition showcase in preparation for the FIBA World Cup with a 99-91 comeback win over Germany on Sunday in Abu Dhabi.
Anthony Edwards led all players with 34 points as Team USA erased a 16-point second half deficit and closed the game on a 22-5 scoring run to finish 5-0 in their warm-up games before heading to Manila, Philippines to open the World Cup next weekend.
Here are five key takeaways from Sunday’s victory.
1. Edwards is ‘the guy’ on this team
One of the key questions about this team entering these exhibition games is which player would emerge at the go-to-guy when the team needed a bucket down the stretch. The early blowouts against Puerto Rico and Slovenia (without Luka Doncic) did not provide any clutch situations to offer a glimpse of a pressure situation. Spain was the first real test for this USA squad, but Sunday’s game against Germany was its best test, and Edwards responded with his finest game of the showcase.
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Edwards scored 34 points on 11-of-21 shooting from the field, 3-of-7 from 3-point range and a perfect 8-of-8 at the free throw line while logging a game-high 34 minutes. In a tight game down the stretch, there was no question that Edwards was the man for Team USA. He hit back-to-back 3-pointers to tie the game midway through the fourth quarter, and the offense ran through him down the stretch. After a Mikal Bridges 3-pointer game the USA the lead with 2:15 to play, it was Edwards who hit two free throws and a baseline jumper to provide the dagger and seal the win. Over the five-game showcase, Edwards averaged 18.8 points on 50% shooting, while adding 4.6 rebounds, 1,8 steals, two steals and a block per game.
“He’s unquestionably the guy,” said USA head coach Steve Kerr after the game. “You can see he knows it. But now the team knows it, and I think the fans see it. But we see it in practice every day. He genuinely believes he’s the best player in the gym every single night. And he’s such a dynamic young player. I think he’s taking a leap.”
2. Haliburton and Reaves shine in reserve roles
The German squad built its biggest lead with just under four minutes to play in the third quarter, going up 71-55 with 3:51 to play. The Americans responded with an 18-6 run to trim the lead to four points entering the final quarter – and that run was fueled by the backup backcourt of Tyrese Haliburton and Austin Reaves.
HALI is COOKING in Abu Dhabi!
🇺🇸 vs. 🇩🇪 showcase exhibition is a fun one.
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Haliburton scored 11 of the USA’s 18 points during the run – hitting all three of his 3-point attempts and adding a layup in transition. Reaves added five points of his own and also had a steal that led to one of Haliburton’s triples. The depth of this roster will be needed throughout the World Cup, and Haliburton and Reaves showed on Sunday that they are ready to step up if the starters have an off day. Both Jalen Brunson (eight points, three assists) and Brandon Ingram (three points) both logged just 15 minutes as the reserves helped bring the Americans back.
3. JJJ a defensive force for the USA
Jaren Jackson Jr. – the reigning NBA Kia Defensive Player of the Year – had a total of seven blocked shots over the first four games of this showcase. He nearly matched that mark on Sunday as he finished with six blocks to go with seven points and eight rebounds in 27 minutes. As impressive as that number of blocks is, it doesn’t tell the true impact that he had in the game defensively. Jackson altered a number of shots that he may not have blocked, but resulted in misses for Germany, and when he was forced to switch on pick-and-rolls, he proved he can handle his own on the perimeter is well.
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After Edwards sank a 3-pointer to pull the Americans within three points late in the fourth quarter, the Germans went to Dennis Schroder in the pick-and-roll, with JJJ switching onto the 10-year NBA veteran guard. Schroder drove the lane against Jackson and put up a scoop shot toward that basket that Jackson swatted away, igniting the transition opportunity that led to Edwards’ pull-up 3-pointer to tie the game at 86.
Three minutes later, with the game still tied at 86, Jackson once again found himself one-on-one against Schroder at the top of the key. And once again, Schroder drove and missed the shot; even though Jackson didn’t record a block on this one, his ability to stay connected to the speedy guard on the drive and contest the shot, forced the miss.
4. Team responded well to adversity
While this exhibition tour featured plenty of wire-to-wire wins for Team USA, Sunday offered a glimpse of the competition they will see in the FIBA World Cup, particularly in the knockout stages after group play. This German squad executed well on both ends of the court and had the Americans on their heels at times with an effective zone defense and great chemistry on offense, finding cutting players for layups and dunks.
Trailing by 16 with less than 14 minutes of game time left, the Americans didn’t panic. Instead, they remained poised and chipped away at the lead. The 18-6 run to close the third quarter was huge, as it turned a 16-point deficit into a much more manageable four-point deficit entering the final 10 minutes. Even after the Germans responded with a 9-4 burst to open the fourth quarter and build the lead to nine points, the US squad was ready for another answer. This time it was a 22-5 run to close out the game.
5. Team chemistry appears strong as the real competition begins
This year’s USA squad for the FIBA World Championship opened its training camp in Las Vegas on Aug. 3. In less than three weeks, this group has come together through practice, travel and exhibition games to become a team in a limited amount of time.
It was interesting to watch the bench reactions as the US began to make its run in the third quarter. After Haliburton hit his third 3-pointer in less than two minutes to cut the lead to three points and force a Germany timeout, he celebrated with Reaves and Banchero on the court, but as he walked toward the bench, there was Edwards and Brunson with high fives and chest bumps. This team doesn’t look like it’s only been playing together for 17 days – and that’ a great sign for the upcoming tournament.