Team USA got a genuine test. Germany has NBA talent and was disciplined all game.
Not only did the Americans respond — largely thanks to Tyrese Haliburton and Austin Reaves — but Anthony Edwards cemented himself as the team’s best player and the man that can lead them to gold at the World Cup starting next week.
Edwards finished with 34 points, including a number of critical buckets down the stretch of the American’s come-from-behind 99-91 win over Germany.
“He’s, unquestionably, the guy,” coach Steve Kerr said of Edwards, via the Associated Press.
The Timberwolves star also kept a lackluster Team USA in the game early, with 11 first-quarter points, including a highlight dunk over Daniel Theis.
“That was the best game I’ve had in a minute,” Edwards said.
The Germans were the test the Americans needed in what was both teams’ final World Cup tune-up (part of a showcase in Abu Dhabi). Germany has NBA talent, and their squad showed game-plan discipline and executed all night long. Dennis Schroder was blowing by guys at the point of attack on his way to 16 points and 10 assists. Brothers Franz and Moritz Wagner were getting to the rim and crashing the boards, and they finished with a combined 31 points. Daniel Theis was physical inside and stretching out the American defense, making rim protection difficult.
Germany led by eight at the half and doubled that to 16 early in the third quarter, pounding the ball inside on the Americans and keeping them in the half court.
Tyrese Haliburton and Austin Reaves changed that dynamic.
That duo off the bench finished with a combined 32 points, hit critical threes, sparked ball movement, defense, energy and an 18-0 fourth-quarter run that earned Team USA the win.
Kerr and staff have plenty to go over and clean up out of this game.
Specifically, Team USA struggled and the offense became stagnant against a zone defense. Jaren Jackson Jr. just hung out in the dunker’s spot on the baseline and never flashed into 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 struggled some against the press. Both zone and press breakers have to come up in Kerr’s film 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, however, have their talent).
Jaren Jackson Jr. was a force defensively — he blocked six shots and stayed in front of Schroder on key possessions late.
However, part of the reason the USA had 10 blocks is they had to lean into their help defense because they struggled to get stops at the point of attack.
However, the USA’s defense picked up when it mattered. Kerr closed 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 know now they’ve got 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) has been together. They’re really good. We feel like we’ve got more room for growth.”
Now USA Basketball — 5-0 in tune-up games for the World Cup — fly to Manila, where the Group C games will be played. The Americans will face New Zealand, Greece (without Giannis Antetokounmpo) and Jordan in group play. The top two teams in that group advance to the single-elimination knock-out tournament.