USA Basketball dug deep to head to the World Cup with an unbeaten exhibition record.
Anthony Edwards scored 34 points, Austin Reaves and Tyrese Haliburton each added 16 off the bench and the U.S. rallied from a 16-point second-half deficit to beat Germany 99-91 on Sunday night in its final tune-up game before heading to the Philippines for the World Cup.
An 18-0 run in the final minutes saved the Americans, who finished the exhibition season 5-0.
“What I like is that we know now they’ve got guts,” U.S. coach Steve Kerr said. “But we can get a lot better because we have a higher ceiling than a lot of teams — because most of these teams have been together. (Germany) has been together. They’re really good. We feel like we’ve got more room for growth. And we’ve got to keep working and getting better as we head to Manila.”
Edwards was brilliant, making 11 of 21 shots and going 8-of-8 from the line. The rest of the U.S. starters scored a combined 25 points; Edwards had nine more than that by himself.
“That was the best game I’ve had in a minute,” Edwards said.
Added Kerr: “He’s unquestionably the guy. He knows it. Now the rest of the team knows it.”
Thing is, Edwards didn’t do it alone. The comeback really started late in the third, when Haliburton scored 11 points in less than 3 minutes to bring the U.S. back from 16 down to within three and spark serious hope.
Germany didn’t go away. Moritz Wagner’s 3-pointer with 6:58 left put Germany up 86-77. The Germans missed their next eight shots — and the Americans scored the game’s next 18 points, taking the lead back for good on Mikal Bridges‘ 3-pointer with 2:15 left.
“It just comes down to buckling down and getting stops,” Haliburton said.
Franz Wagner scored 17 points for Germany, which got 16 points and 10 assists from Dennis Schroder, and 14 points from Moritz Wagner. It became the first team this summer to take more than a four-point lead on the U.S. but couldn’t finish the win off.
The U.S. team has been together for only 2 1/2 weeks yet has had very little trouble clicking to this point. The Americans opened the tune-up schedule with a 117-74 win in Las Vegas over Puerto Rico, then headed to Spain for wins over Slovenia (92-62, though the Slovenians played without Luka Doncic) and Spain (98-88). From Spain, they headed to Abu Dhabi to finish preparations, beating Greece 108-86 on Friday and then capping it all off by topping the Germans.
Next up: The stuff that matters — the World Cup, which will take place in the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia. The U.S. is the heavy betting favorite to win the tournament, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, and will face New Zealand, Greece and Jordan in group play that starts Saturday in Manila.
“I don’t think that we really ever feel like we’re out of a game,” Reaves said.
With their World Cup opener on Friday, the Germans left quickly postgame to travel to Dubai and catch their flight to Japan. Daniel Theis and Andreas Obst each scored 12 for Germany, which outrebounded the Americans 46-35.
Jaren Jackson Jr. had six of the Americans’ 10 blocked shots. … The U.S. outscored Germany by 15 points in Reaves’ 18:30 of playing time. … Haliburton needed only seven shots for his 16 points.
A pair of previously unbeaten teams — France and Brazil — both lost exhibitions on Sunday; the French were defeated by Australia, the Brazilians by Italy. And those results meant only three of the 32 World Cup-bound teams haven’t lost at least one tune-up game this summer.
The U.S. finished 5-0, Italy improved to 6-0 with one game left Monday against New Zealand and Latvia topped Puerto Rico to move to 5-0 entering its last warmup against Lithuania on Tuesday.
Reporting by The Associated Press.
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