Team USA steamrolls New Zealand in another World Cup win
Team USA, as expected, is dominating pool play, but this win wasn't particularly awesome.
A quick look at Team USA's 98-71 win over Finland in the third game of the FIBA World Cup for the United States.
What happened: Well, Team USA can still do better. New Zealand never stood a chance against this group, but -- and yes, this sounds weird in a 27-point victory -- this wasn’t a particularly impressive performance. They out-talented the Kiwis, and there was a huge gap in terms of size and athleticism.
New Zealand misses Steven Adams, and this might have been a bit closer with him in the mix. Not sure he’d help much with all the turnovers that let Team USA get on the break, but New Zealand was overmatched on the inside and actually showed better perimeter play better than advertised.
The undefeated USA were led once again by their frontcourt. Kenneth Faried and Anthony Davis combined for 36 points on 14-of-22 shooting, plus 20 rebounds. The problem is that, when they’re on the bench, only DeMarcus Cousins has proven to be a capable backup. Andre Drummond and Mason Plumlee played limited minutes and looked shaky in them.
In the backcourt, Splash Brothers Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined for 24 points. Derrick Rose struggled once again, with three points on 1-for-6 shooting. He has yet to find his rhythm in the tournament.
Team USA built up a 22-point lead by halftime, and was actually outscored by one point in the third quarter. They sort of relaxed, and the final margin could have been much larger. They led by as many as 34 points.
The most intimidating New Zealand looked on Tuesday was during the pregame Haka:
1. Kenneth Faried is shooting 21 for 25 through three games. In this game, he had 15 points and 11 rebounds, going 7 for 9 from the field. He has been a non-stop highlight factory and a beast on the boards, as you’d expect. It’s just crazy that he’s been this effective in this setting, where most thought Team USA would want more shooting at his position. In the NBA, Faried has to make up for his relative lack of size every night, and he does. In FIBA play, he looks even better because he doesn’t have that disadvantage.
2. Are there any superlatives left for Anthony Davis? Pelicans fans should be having watch parties for this. He’s treating the World Cup as a showcase on both ends of the court, and he’s Team USA’s most important player. Davis finished with 21 points and nine boards, shooting 7 for 13 from the field and 7 for 10 from the free-throw line. He and Faried combine for a handful of highlight dunks every game, and this alley-oop early on from Kyrie Irving makes you wonder if it’s possible to throw a lob pass he can’t catch:
3. James Harden is just a great FIBA player. You might want him to pass more and make fewer mistakes on defense -- at least he’s trying now! -- but he's so, so hard to guard. Harden scored 13 points on only four field-goal attempts, getting to the line whenever he wanted. He knows exactly when to attack, and no one is better at drawing contact. Surprisingly, he his four assists against New Zealand were a team high.
Harden can also dunk on people occasionally:
Next up: Team USA faces the Dominican Republic on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. ET. The Dominican Republic lost to the Ukraine on Saturday and beat New Zealand on Sunday.
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