USA Dominant In FIBA World Cup Opener
BILBAO, Spain (Aug. 30, 2014) -- The most impressive part of the USA's (1-0) 114-55 rout of Finland (0-1) in its opening game of the 2014 FIBA World Cup on Saturday night at Bizkaia Arena in Bilbao, Spain, in fact was an entire quarter.
In the whole second period, the USA allowed just two made free throws for Finland and limited its opponent to 0-17 shooting from the field, while it raced to 29 points of its own to improve upon an already sizable first-quarter lead.
The 59-point win was the USA's largest margin of victory in FIBA World Cup play since NBA players have been included on rosters (1994).
"Congratulations to Finland. They played hard for forty minutes, we played hard for forty minutes," said USA coach Mike Krzyzewski (Duke University), who is now 4-0 in FIBA World Cup opening games. "We're more talented, but I thought the effort for both teams was at a high level.
"Our defense was outstanding, forcing 31 turnovers and to only give up I think five assists, I just thought our guys played very hard the whole time. We won by a lot of points, but I think Finland is a good team. I think they are a well coached (team). Their fans were terrific. What a nice atmosphere, and it was an honor to play them."
All 12 U.S. players scored, led by 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field and 4-of-7 marksmanship from beyond the 3-point arc by Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors). Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans) was 6-of-8 from the field and 5-of-5 from the free throw line to finish with 17 points; Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls) also was 5-of-5 from the line on his way to 12 points and three assists; and Rudy Gay (Sacramento Kings) added 10 points and five rebounds.
"I've got to give credit to the starters, they came out and put the pressure on and played with great energy," Thompson said. "With this team I feel like if we play with great energy, play unselfish, you know, we're pretty hard to beat."
It seemed that more than half of the 11,300 fans in the at-capacity Bizkaia Arena were Finnish, and buoyed by the crowd, Finland, which was playing in its first FIBA World Cup contest, trailed 17-12 to start the game before the USA made its move. James Harden (Houston Rockets) recaptured what would have been a U.S. turnover and found Gay for an alley-oop at 3:15, which ignited a 14-4 U.S. run that closed the first quarter with the USA leading 31-16.
The second period found Finland completely stymied by the USA. While Finland scored its only two points from the line at 6:25, the USA shot 13-of-17 from the field (.765) to lead 60-18 at halftime.
"Yeah, our coaches were encouraging us to keep up that effort by telling us at every timeout, every dead ball that they only had two points or whatever," said Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors), who dished out a game-high five assists. "That's just motivation to keep doing what we're doing. Defense is going to be the key for us throughout this tournament. We're going to make shots. We're going to miss some shots. It's just a matter of how our effort on defense is every night to get to where we want to go."
Finland actually outscored the USA 14-12 over the first 6:25 of the second half, but the effort essentially was for the Finnish fans, as the USA still led by 40 points, 72-32 at the peak of that run at 4:45. From there, the USA outscored Finland 17-7 to lead 89-39 headed into the final 10 minutes.
The USA broke triple-digits on the scoreboard at 5:22 in the fourth quarter when Gay finished a fast-break that was started by a steal and assist from Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers), and the USA secured an easy win.
Finland was led by a trio of scorers in Shawn Huff (12 points), Petteri Koponen (12 points) and Erik Murphy (10 points).
The USA faces Turkey at 3:30 p.m. EDT on Aug. 31 (ESPN) in a rematch of the 2010 FIBA World Championship gold medal game, a contest in which the USA claimed an 81-64 victory. Following a day off on Sept. 1, the USA resumes play Sept. 2 facing New Zealand at 11:30 a.m. EDT (ESPN2). The U.S. will go against the Dominican Republic at 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 3 (ESPN2) and will conclude its preliminary play on Sept. 4 facing Ukraine at 11:30 a.m. EDT (ESPN2).