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2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup: Team USA vs. Greece review

Two games, two wins, a place in the next stage assured and performances improving. It's safe to say Team USA's first few days at the FIBA World Cup have been successful.

Okay but flawed in their opening victory against New Zealand, Steve Kerr's side was decidedly better in beating Greece 109-81 on Monday to go 2-0 and ensure their last pool game against Jordan becomes nothing more than welcome practice time.

They are growing into the World Cup – unlike France, say, who are going home from the World Cup – and with bigger challenges lying ahead in stage two and the knockout stages, Kerr and his crew have to be content.

France's exit a warning to Team USA

There is no doubt France's early exit from the World Cup has registered with Team USA. Kerr admitted as much.

It isn't just that the French, powered by NBA heavy-hitters Evan Fournier and Rudy Gobert, were the team who humiliated the Americans four years ago.

The point Kerr was making – and it was a point he said his players have picked up on – is that if you lose focus and take your eyes off the prize, defeats can happen.

Previous editions of Team USA have grown complacent and Kerr does not want the roster of '23 to be caught off-guard – and so far, so good.

New Zealand probably never were a danger, Greece even minus Giannis were, just the type of banana skin that gilded NBA giants can slip up on, but on Monday there was no mistake.

Reaves dominant in Manila

The bare facts make nice enough reading. A 109-81 win in Manila against a powerful Greek side featuring an Antetokounmpo, just not that one. Thanasis played, Giannis, as we've mentioned, did not.

Team USA were up by just four at the end of the first quarter, a marginal improvement on the first quarter against New Zealand after which Kerr's men led by one. From then on the US got better and stronger winning the three remaining quarters by at least nine points.

Austin Reaves led all scorers with 15 points and had six assists, Jalen Brunson shot five-for-five from the floor and played more like a captain, and Josh Hart pulled down 11 rebounds.

The team had twice as many offensive rebounds as they had against New Zealand and coughed up half as many turnovers. The trajectory here is obvious and a positive one. 

Slow starts yet to be punished 

Team USA has issues to take care of and Kerr is acutely aware of them.

Nets' forward Cameron Johnson was two-for-seven shooting having been 0-for-three against New Zealand. None of Kerr's starters could muster double figures against Greece. In the first half the US starters outscored Greece by two points. 

The second unit, led by Reaves, was plus-11. The first five improved in the second half and ultimately they won comfortably.

Nor can you discount the defensive impact of Tyrese Haliburton and Paolo Banchero, in particular, who were strong battling the bigger Greeks. Hart had his best minutes yet and Johnson, too, was part of a strong defensive effort.

Collective effort can take Team USA all the way

Team USA truly looks like a team, and you cannot put a price on that.

Kerr gave no one more than 21 minutes and all 12 got playing time.

Their collective class from the free-throw line saw them finish 30-for-34 on the evening after going 21-for-27 against New Zealand. Not only is their ability to draw contact earning them points but it is also putting opponents in potential foul trouble with players disqualified after five fouls in FIBA events in contrast to six in the NBA.

There's enough showboating going on to delight the fans but not irk Kerr, enabling Team USA to show their flair alongside their focus. And right now that's looking a potent – and winning – mix.

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