Team USA Survived An Early Scare From New Zealand To Win Its World Cup Opener

It wasn’t always pretty, but USA Basketball was able to take care of business in its first game at the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup. Despite going down by double-digits in the first quarter to a feisty New Zealand side, the Americans were able to rally, get their feet under them, and pick up a decisive 99-72 win in Manila.

The starting lineup for the Americans really struggled to get into the flow of the game. Between some hot shooting and a feisty full-court press by the Tall Blacks, the United States saw itself fall into a 14-4 hole early. But fortunately, the American bench was able to inject some energy into things, with Paolo Banchero, Tyrese Haliburton, and Austin Reaves all flashing in the game’s first half.

This allowed some of the starters, particularly Anthony Edwards and Jaren Jackson Jr., to grow into the game, and as a result, the United States went into halftime with a 45-36 lead. The third quarter ended up being much of the same, in part because Banchero was able to score 12 points in the frame and really establish himself as a force to be reckoned with on both ends of the floor.

The fourth quarter was essentially a formality, as the Americans were able to keep New Zealand at arm’s length due to the lead they built up in the second and third.

Banchero was the star of the show for the U.S., as the Orlando Magic standout scored a team-high 21 points on 8-for-10 shooting with four rebounds and four blocks. Reaves and Haliburton were likewise excellent off the bench — the former had 12 points, six assists, three steals, and two rebounds; the latter went for 10 points, four rebounds, three assists, and three steals. Edwards had 14 points and seven boards, while Jackson had 12 points, four rebounds, and a block.

Next up for the United States is a game against Greece on Monday. The game is scheduled to tip off at 8:40 a.m. EST on ESPN2.