Team USA got a real test. Germany has NBA talent and was disciplined throughout the game.
Not only did the Americans respond – thanks in large part to Tyrese Haliburton and Austin Reaves – but Anthony Edwards cemented himself as the best player on the team and the man who can lead them to gold at the World Cup starting next week.
Edwards finished with 34 points, including several crucial points in the run of the American’s come-from-behind 99-91 victory over Germany.
“He’s definitely the man,” coach Steve Kerr said of Edwards, through the Associated Press.
The Timberwolves star also held a lackluster Team USA early in the game, with 11 points in the first quarter, including a highlight dunk over Daniel Theis.
“That was the best game I’ve played in a minute,” said Edwards.
The Germans were the test the Americans needed in what was both teams’ final World Cup match (part of a showcase in Abu Dhabi). Germany has NBA talent and their team showed discipline and played all night. Dennis Schroder breezed past guys on offense en route to 16 points and 10 assists. Brothers Franz and Moritz Wagner reached the edge and crashed the boards, finishing with a combined 31 points. Daniel Theis was physical on the inside and stretched the American defense, making edge protection difficult.
Germany led with eight at the half and doubled that to 16 early in the third quarter, hitting the ball in on the Americans and keeping them in half court.
Tyrese Haliburton and Austin Reaves changed that dynamic.
That duo finished off the bench with a combined 32 points, hit critical threes, led to ball movement, defense, energy and an 18-0 run in the fourth quarter that gave Team USA the win.
Kerr and his staff have plenty to do to clean up this game.
Team USA in particular struggled and the offense stagnated against a zone defense. Years Jackson Jr. just hung out at the dunker’s spot on the baseline and never flashed in the paint, and the rest of the Americans decided to make a move in isolation or just shoot over the top of the zone. Neither really worked.
The Americans also fought a bit against the press. Both zone and press breakers should be featured in Kerr’s filming and practice sessions before the Americans open the World Cup (Friday, against New Zealand), because after this game every team will try to emulate what Germany did (few have, though their talent).
Years Jackson Jr. was a strength defensively – blocking six shots and staying in key positions for Schroder late on.
However, part of the reason the US had 10 blocks is that they had to lean on their auxiliary defenses as they struggled to stop at the point of attack.
However, the US defense picked up when it mattered. Kerr finished the game with a small but defensive lineup of Haliburton, Reaves, Edwards, Mikal Bridges and Jackson. Bridges finished the game with 11 points and Paolo Banchero had 13.
“What I like is that we now know they have guts,” Kerr said. “But we can get a lot better because we have a higher ceiling than a lot of teams – because most of these teams have been together. (Germany) have been together. They are really good. We feel like we have more room for growth .”
Now USA Basketball — 5-0 in tune-up games for the World Cup — flies to Manila, where the Group C games are played. The Americans hit New Zealand, Greece (without Giannis Antetokounmpo) and Jordan in group play. The top two teams in that group will advance to the single-elimination knockout tournament.