Team USA opened its account at the FIBA World Cup on Saturday with a comprehensive 99-72 victory over New Zealand.
The United States is the most successful nation in the history of the competition with a joint five wins, three silver medals and two bronze.
This year’s crop of players are seeking some redemption, however, as they bid to erase the memories of the 2019 tournament in China where they finished in seventh spot.
The scoreline perhaps flattered the pre-tournament favourites a little as New Zealand did make life tough for the Americans in the opening exchanges.
The full New Zealand roster performed a pre-game Haka, a traditional Maori dance and chanting display, and then came out the blocks firing by taking an early 14-4 lead.
The USA mounted a response of their own with a 12-2 run to draw level and with 6:58 left of the first half Tyrese Haliburton’s three-pointer saw the Americans take a lead they would never relinquish.
The Tall Blacks did threaten to get back into the game and they moved to within 12 points as they third quarter was drawing to a close. Back-to-back threes from Paolo Banchero did restore a healthy lead for the USA and effectively ended the contest though as they saw out the fourth quarter with little trouble.
Banchero, last season’s NBA Rookie of the Year, led the scoring with 21 points off the bench, while Anthony Edwards added 14 as Jaren Jackson Jr and Austin Reaves each scored 12. Reuben Te Rangi was the top scorer for New Zealand with 15 points.
The USA have now won all six of their games this summer, the first five of which were friendlies.
Team USA could potentially secure a place in the second round on Monday in their next Group C match against Greece.
The Greeks claimed a 91-72 win over Jordan in their own opener and the two teams should already be familiar with each other having faced off in an exhibition encounter in Abu Dhabi earlier this month.
Team USA won that game 108-86, although Monday’s meeting in Manila is likely to be a more competitive affair given what is at stake - as whoever wins will know they are through to the next round with a match to spare.
Team USA are the huge favourites to win Monday’s clash with Greece as they are -15000 in the Money Line.
Any American backers may be better served considering the Point Spread and they have been given a big -23.5 handicap in that market, with the USA priced at -110 to win by at least 24 points.
Greece, who have Giannis Antetokounmpo’s brother, Thanasis, on their roster, are +2000 to pull off a major upset and claim a win.
After facing Greece on Monday, Team USA will take on Jordan on Wednesday.
Orlando Magic star Banchero was the USA’s top scorer with 21 points and Te Rangi, who plays for Auckland Tuatara in NZNBL, led the way for New Zealand with 15.
Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves led the game in rebounding with seven and Los Angeles Lakers guard Reaves had the most assists with six, one more than Melbourne United point guard Shea Ili had for the Tall Blacks.
If the USA reach the second round they will play another group stage with the teams who finish first and second in Group D.
After the first games, Lithuania and Montenegro lead the way in that group after respective victories over Egypt and Mexico.
Canada have perhaps made the biggest statement at the tournament in the Philippines, Japan, and Indonesia after a huge 95-65 victory over France - the silver medalists at the last Olympics.
Serbia, Spain and Australia are all potential contenders to go all the way and deny the USA a sixth FIBA World Cup title and all three of those nations began their bids for glory with victories.