2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup
Team USA begins FIBA World Cup with win over Czech Republic
Kemba Walker, Donovan Mitchell and Harrison Barnes led the way in China
SHANGHAI — The United States Men’s National Team opened the 2019 FIBA World Cup with a 88-67 win over the Czech Republic on Sunday night.
After an ugly first quarter (in which the U.S. scored just 17 points on 20 possessions), the Americans took control early in the second by forcing three turnovers on the Czech Republic’s first five possessions. They converted the last of those into a Jayson Tatum transition 3-pointer that put them up 27-16, and the Czechs never got the lead back down to single digits.
The U.S. took care of the ball themselves, committing only seven turnovers, a big improvement from the 19 they committed in their last exhibition game against Canada. They only got to the line six times, but shot 50 percent from the field and drained 10 3-pointers on 26 attempts.
Donovan Mitchell led the U.S. with 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting, highlighted by a two-handed dunk midway through the fourth quarter.
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“We did a lot of good things,” Mitchell said. “We guarded it well. We’ve got a lot of things we can definitely work on, and I think this is a good start to the tournament.”
Harrison Barnes and Kemba Walker added 14 and 13 points, respectively. The Chicago Bulls’ Tomas Satoransky finished with a team-high 17 points for the Czech Republic.
The Czechs scored the first four points of the fourth quarter to get within 66-52, but the Americans weren’t threatened. Walker made a 3-pointer to stop the mini-run, found Mitchell in the corner for another 3-pointer that made it 72-52 about a minute later and the outcome was academic from there.
The Czechs had their highlight run early for a quick 11-7 lead, and the couple thousand of their fans in Shanghai — most of them wearing either white or blue team jerseys, with a few Wizards jerseys for Satoransky mixed in there — were roaring.
It didn’t last long.
After a 9-0 run by the Czechs, order was quickly restored. The Americans scored the next 10 points, kick-starting what became a 29-9 run in all, and led by as many as 16 before going into the half with a 43-29 edge.
And it was defense that carried the Americans. Over a 10-minute stretch of the half, the Czechs went 4 for 20 with seven turnovers.
“The chemistry is building,” Barnes said. “Looking forward to it continuing to build.”
The Americans started a lineup of Walker, Mitchell, Tatum, Barnes and Myles Turner. But 11 of the 12 players saw the floor by early in the second quarter, and 11th man Derrick White was a spark in that early-second run that helped the U.S. take control.
The U.S. has a 54-game winning streak in (non-exhibition) games with a roster made up entirely of NBA players, going back to the bronze-medal game of the 2006 World Championship.
The team’s next game will be against Turkey on Tuesday (8:30 a.m. ET).
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
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