Anthony Edwards, Austin Reaves and Tyrese Haliburton inspired a remarkable United States comeback against Germany in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, to ensure the Americans wrapped up their five-game series of World Cup tune-ups with a perfect winning record.
USA trailed the Germans by 16 points late in the third quarter before LA Lakers’ Reaves and Indiana Pacers’ Haliburton came off the bench to help launch a much-needed fightback, scoring crucial threes and setting up Edwards for a monster finish to the game.
The Minnesota Timberwolves guard top-scored with 34 points and it was an Edwards three-pointer halfway through the fourth quarter that levelled the clash before the Americans secured a 99-91 victory.
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USA and Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr paid tribute to Edwards and believes this national team call-up could provide a springboard for the 22-year-old.
“He is unquestionably ‘the guy’. He knows it, but now the team knows it and I think the fans see it, but we see it in practice every day,” said Kerr.
“He genuinely believes he is the best player in the gym every single night and he’s such a dynamic young player but I think he’s taking a leap.
“And if you think about USA basketball over the years, a lot of young players have taken a leap in these World Cup, Olympic competitions and it feels to me like Anthony is taking that leap.”
Edwards will need to take that leap after Minnesota put its faith in him, extending the All-Star swingman on a five-year contract that could reach $260 million ($A406m).
Toronto Raptors’ Dennis Schroeder spearheaded Germany’s offence, tallying up 16 points and 10 assists, while Franz Wagner of the Orlando Magic top-scored with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
“Germany was great, they were so physical,” said Kerr.
“Schroeder is such a tough match-up and gets penetration and they did a good job on the glass, they beat us up rebounding-wise, so we were trying to make decisions during the game, do we go bigger or do we try to get more playmaking on the floor?
“They forced us into a lot of difficult decisions.”
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With exhibition game wins over Puerto Rico in Las Vegas, Slovenia and Spain in Malaga, and Greece and Germany in Abu Dhabi, USA now head to the World Cup in Manila, where they tip off their campaign against New Zealand on August 26.
They are looking to improve on their poor seventh-place performance in the competition four years ago.
“The hard part is when you don’t know your team quite well enough yet, you’ve got a lot of options but no clear decisions, no clear moves,” explained Kerr, who has the challenging task of putting together a group with no national team experience in the span of a few weeks.
“And so, right now, tonight, was definitely sort of, let’s try to find a group that clicks and stay with them.
“We have 12 great players and every night could be different, we just got to find a group that can click.
“We still go to Manila feeling like we have a lot of room for growth but we also go there with a lot of confidence in ourselves in the group, in the fibre of the group, the connection, they really like each other, they play well together, and they fight.
“So that’s a huge step.”