Americans top Antetokounmpo, Greece at World Cup 69-53
ABS-CBN Sports on Sep 07, 2019 10:36 PM
Greece's Giannis Antetokounmpo attempts to shoot past United States' Jaylen Brown at left and United States' Khris Middleton at right during phase two of the FIBA Basketball World Cup at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center in Shenzhen in southern China's Guangdong province on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019. United States beat Greece 69-53. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press
SHENZHEN, China (AP) — Kemba Walker scored 15 points, Donovan Mitchell scored 10 on his 23rd birthday and the U.S. contained NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, defeating Greece 69-53 in a second-round game at the World Cup on Saturday.
Harrison Barnes and Derrick White each scored nine for the U.S. (4-0), which can clinch a quarterfinal berth Monday in multiple ways. It needs either a win over Brazil or a Greece win over the Czech Republic or through a three-way tiebreaker, if necessary.
Antetokounmpo, the Milwaukee Bucks star and reigning NBA MVP, scored 15 points but Greece (2-2) was eliminated from contention for a spot in the quarterfinals.
The U.S. national team has won 57 consecutive games in international tournaments with NBA players, starting with the 2006 world championships bronze-medal game and continuing through every FIBA Americas, world championships, World Cup and Olympic event since.
The streak started after a 101-95 loss to Greece in 2006 — a defeat that forced the U.S. to change its program.
The Americans haven’t lost in the biggest tournaments since.
“I thought we played well,” Walker said. “Stuck to the game plan.”
Antetokounmpo’s eyes were closed as he mouthed along with the words of Greece’s national anthem. After the U.S. anthem played and the rosters from both sides met at midcourt for the customary pregame exchange of gifts, the NBA MVP shook hands with Bucks teammate Brook Lopez and gave him a quick hug.
Other than that, there was no pregame interaction between Antetokounmpo and the Americans.
He was super-aggressive from the jump, spinning his way to a layup on the first possession, making a 3-pointer on Greece’s second possession and he got fouled on a baseline drive on the next trip down the floor.
So that was five points in the first 43 seconds for Antetokounmpo. He scored four in his next 18 minutes of playing time.
The Americans kept a steady stream of different looks coming at the MVP — who was guarded in the first half alone by Harrison Barnes, Khris Middleton, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Myles Turner. The Celtics players, perhaps mindful of what he did against them in last season’s playoffs, held him scoreless in the half and the U.S. went into the break with a 38-25 lead.
Antetokounmpo had a steal and dunk late in the third, which got plenty of fans out of their seats and Greek fans waving flags. But the outcome was never in doubt, and the MVP was on the bench for the entire fourth quarter in a somewhat puzzling move.
U.S.: Mitchell’s birthday came a day after Joe Harris turned 28. ... Smart, who has twice missed time with leg injuries this summer, slipped and fell as he chased a loose ball out of bounds with 1:11 left in the first. He stayed in the game. ... The U.S. shot only 36%.
Greece: The outcome came five years to the day after the Greeks were ousted by Serbia in the Round of 16 at the 2014 World Cup. ... Nick Calathes became the third Florida player to be part of a loss to the U.S. this summer; Andrew Nembhard played in the Americans’ pre-World Cup win over Canada in Australia, and Scottie Wilbekin played for Turkey in its overtime loss to the U.S. in the group stage.
Through four games, the U.S. has trailed for all of 7 minutes, 48 seconds — out of a possible 165 minutes. The Americans have led for 147:02, and games have been tied for 10:10.
The U.S. has held Japan and Greece to a combined 98 points in the last two games. That represents the fewest points the U.S. has allowed in consecutive games of a major international tournament since the 1988 Olympics, when the Americans gave up 92 in a two-game stretch against Egypt and Puerto Rico.
U.S.: Face Brazil (3-1) in a second-round finale Monday in Shenzhen.
Greece: Face the Czech Republic (3-1) in a second-round finale Monday in Shenzhen.