Team USA won a close game against Turkey on Tuesday, but its game against Japan showed the team’s overall potential.
The Americans had their best performance of the FIBA World Cup on Thursday, defeating Japan 98-45 in the final game of the first round.
Team USA had a below-average shooting performance against Turkey, but the team’s offense had more flow against Japan. As the ball moved around more, more players got involved and into a rhythm. Team USA shot 48.1% from the field, and the Americans tallied 25 assists, the most they’ve had in the group phase so far.
Khris Middleton, Donovan Mitchell and Kemba Walker each had six assists or more, and Walker led the team with eight.
Team USA will need more of the ball movement it showed against Japan. If the Americans can spread the ball, particularly with the dynamic players they have, they’ll be a hard team to guard. Mitchell occasionally was Team USA’s lead guard, with Walker playing off the ball.
Having Mitchell help facilitate can add variety to this team’s offense. Mitchell has averaged 11.6 points a game in the tournament so far. He can score, but he had six assists against Japan, the most he’s had in the tournament so far. If Mitchell can continue to distribute, he brings more value to an offense that’s filled with talent.
Brown has come off the bench, and before Thursday’s game, he had scored a total of three points in the tournament.
For Brown to contribute to Team USA, he must continue to be active on defense — that’s his main strength. He helps provide pressure on the perimeter, and in transition, he’s hard to guard because of how athletic he is.
Along with Brown, former Golden State Warriors player Harrison Barnes had a good game as well. Barnes scored 14 points, and he had eight rebounds.
It seems as though players’ roles are starting to become more clear on Team USA. Some of the team’s most consistent scorers are Walker, Mitchell, Middleton and Joe Harris. Jayson Tatum suffered a sprained left ankle injury against Turkey, but when he returns, he’ll provide more boost to the offense.
Mitchell and Walker both help distribute the ball, and Brown, Myles Turner and Derrick White are some of Team USA’s best defenders. Per ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, Marcus Smart is day-to-day with a left quad strain. Smart is also one of the Americans’ most disruptive defenders.
Going forward, the Americans having defined roles will help them continue to succeed in the FIBA World Cup. Team USA will begin the second round of the group phase Saturday, when it will play a Greece team led by reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.