USA basketball score, takeaways: Team USA crushes Italy to advance to semifinals at 2023 FIBA World Cup
The Americans had no trouble against Italy on Tuesday
Team USA basketball is heading to the semifinals at the 2023 FIBA World Cup. The Americans crushed Italy, 100-63, in Manila on Tuesday to clinch a spot in the tournament's final four. Team USA will face either Germany or Latvia in the semifinals on Friday.
Team USA jumped out to a 10-point lead by the end of the first quarter against Italy and never looked back. Mikal Bridges led all scorers with 24 points and went 8 for 11 from the floor. Tyrese Haliburton added 18 points and hit six 3-pointers off the bench in a blowout that Team USA led by 30 or more points for most of the second half.
It was the kind of bounce back Team USA was looking for after the squad dropped its final game of the second round to Lithuania on Sunday. Team USA has already secured a better finish at the World Cup than 2019 when the team finished seventh.
Here are three takeaways from Tuesday's win.
1. Team USA doesn't need a go-to guy
Many American fans heralded Anthony Edwards as Team USA's ideal lead scorer ahead of the 2023 FIBA World Cup. While the Minnesota Timberwolves star did erupt for 35 points in the loss to Lithuania, his offense has been up and down in the tournament. Edwards tallied a mere three points on 1-for-6 shooting with three assists on Tuesday. He'll likely have a better showing before it's all said and done, but there's no need to make him a focal point with so many capable players on the roster.
Bridges has matched or improved upon the scoring output from his previous outing with each appearance this tournament and was clearly the engine that powered Team USA through the quarterfinals. The Brooklyn Nets forward was an efficient 8-for-11 from the field and contributed a pair of steals alongside a block on the defensive end.
Then there's Haliburton, who's proved to be a valuable bench spark alongside Austin Reaves over the last five weeks. Both reserve guards joined Bridges to give Team USA a trio of double-digit scorers. The Americans can pull off convincing wins like this despite strong volume scorers like Brandon Ingram being in hibernation so far. All-around effort and intensity from the jump will produce results for this squad.
2. The Americans need more consistency at center
Lack of post presence had a lot to do with Team USA's loss to Lithuania and it's still a glaring weakness for the Americans. Jaren Jackson Jr., Paolo Banchero, and Bobby Portis are the staples of the rotation at power forward and center, but bigger teams could take advantage of this group. Jackson is the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year but got in foul trouble early after picking up a pair less than three minutes into the first quarter. He logged less than 11 minutes in the game and floated by with two points and three rebounds. Banchero and Portis were far more effective. This trend can't continue if Team USA wants to avoid a serious challenge en route to the gold medal game.
It's unlikely that Walker Kessler, a premier rim protector, will play meaningful minutes soon. But they could need his verticality in a critical moment later on. More skilled bigs from Germany and Canada will be able to pose more of a threat to America than Italy's did. Italy lost the overall rebounding battle but did win the offensive rebounding battle 9-8. Giving up too many second-chance opportunities can only come back to bite Team USA.
3. Perimeter shooting makes a huge difference
Team USA posted its second-largest margin of victory this tournament against Italy and the long ball helped fuel their success. They didn't sink more triples than Montenegro or Lithuania in the back half of the group stage but did convert 17 of their 36 tries on Tuesday. Their success put pressure on Italy, which only sank seven of its 38 attempts from beyond the arc in a blowout loss. Three Americans made multiple threes against Italy and all three of them converted those shots at a 66.7% clip or better.
It's probably not sustainable to shoot at such a high level the rest of the way, but the performance should give Team USA's snipers confidence. Latvia has made more threes per contest (13.2) than any team in the tournament so far. Germany, on the other hand, is converting 2.6 more triples than Team USA per game while shooting an almost identical percentage. If things get tight moving forward the Americans will need some reliable shooting.
USA 100, Italy 63
The Americans pulled off a convincing despite underwhelming performances from their most likely scorers. Bridges (24), Haliburton (18), and Austin Reaves (12) were the only Team USA players who reached double-digits in points. Bridges also led all players with seven rebounds. Fontecchio tallied 18 points while Tonut tallied 11 for the lackluster Italians.
USA 92, Italy 53
Haliburton is turning the fourth frame into his personal highlight reel. The point guard is up to 18 points and has made six of his nine attempts from beyond the arc. He also has game-highs in steals (3) and assists (5).
USA 83, Italy 49
Fontecchio has fouled out early in the fourth quarter. He led Italy with 18 points before exiting the contest following a foul on Cam Johnson.
USA 81, Italy 44
Haliburton ended the third quarter with style after throwing a between-the-legs alley-oop to Banchero, who finished with a two-handed slam on a fast break following a steal. It's hard to see Italy getting back into this game.
USA 73, Italy 36
Melli caught an arm to the head on a Brandon Ingram dunk attempt, but he appears to be alright. Ingram was penalized for an unsportsmanlike foul and Italy was awarded two shots.
USA 68, Italy 36
Bridges isn't slowing down on offense and has shot up to a game-high 24 points on 8-for-11 shooting. Only Fontecchio is doing all he can to keep his team in the game and has a team-high 16 points, but he's clearly getting tired and the rest of his team isn't contributing much.
Best highlight of the game?
This Austin Reaves put-back dunk at the end of the first half might be the top play from Tuesday. Reaves, along with Mikal Bridges, is having a big game for the USA.
USA 62, Italy 34
Team USA is putting its foot on the gas in the second half, stretching its lead to nearly 30 points. The Americans are 16 minutes away from a spot in the semifinals in Manila.
Second half underway
The Americans are 20 minutes away from a semifinal berth at the World Cup. The Americans were ousted in the quarterfinals at the 2019 World Cup, so this would be one step closer to their first title since 2014. Team USA would play the winner of Germany-Latvia if the team advances.
USA 46, Italy 24
Italy finished the half with some easy points at the charity stripe thanks to a shooting foul and a technical foul. Villanova alums Bridges and Brunson lead all scorers with 14 and seven points, respectively. Melli has matched Birdges' game-high with six rebounds. The Americans could build a bigger lead in the second half if Italy can't start knocking down some shots from the field.
USA 46, Italy 24 - Halftime
Bridges has continued to impress with a game-high 14 points and five boards while Edwards has taken on the role of a distributor. Edwards and Haliburton each have three dimes apiece.
USA 33, Italy 18
Italy has just four points more than halfway through the second quarter. Team USA is building a comfortable lead, thanks to shots like this: