Anthony Davis continues stellar play in win vs. New Zealand

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

On an American team filled with star power, no one has been as vital to USA Basketball’s early success at the FIBA World Cup than New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis. The 21-year-old continued his consistently effective play Tuesday in a Group C pool play game against New Zealand, finishing with 21 points, nine rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block in 22 minutes of action. USA defeated overmatched New Zealand by a 98-71 margin, improving to 3-0 in the preliminary round.

Davis scored 17 points against Finland in Saturday’s World Cup opener, then capped the weekend with a 19-point eruption against Turkey, with all of those 19 points coming in the second half. The three straight double-digit games means Davis is Team USA’s leading scorer so far in Spain, with an average of 19.0 points. During his NBA All-Star campaign of 2013-14 with the Pelicans, the second-year pro averaged a similar figure, at 20.8 points.

Scoring in a variety of ways, Davis and Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried (15 points, 11 rebounds) continued to terrorize opposing frontcourts in Spain. Davis was featured often in USA’s halfcourt offense, particularly in the second half, while also feasting on his usual assortment of finishing plays around the rim. Davis threw down four dunks, part of a 7-for-13 performance from the field. At the foul line, he was 7-for-10.

The United States was never threatened by New Zealand. USA went up by 22 points at halftime and held a similarly comfortable edge for the bulk of Tuesday’s game. USA will face the Dominican Republic on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. Central (ESPN2).

In other Group C pool play action involving the Pelicans:

Ukraine 64, Turkey 58

Pelicans center Omer Asik already had a double-double by halftime and authored one of the best individual efforts by anyone so far in Spain, totaling 16 points and 20 rebounds. It wasn’t enough, however, for Turkey to avoid a second straight defeat in the preliminary round. Turkey (1-2) is now in a precarious position in terms of qualifying for the Round of 16; it must win at least one of its final two games to have a chance to advance. Turkey plays Finland on Wednesday, followed by Thursday’s pool play finale vs. the Dominican Republic.

After a quiet Saturday opening game vs. New Zealand, Asik is averaging 11.0 points and 14.0 rebounds over Turkey’s two most recent contests.