U.S. topples Greece at FIBA World Cup
Kemba Walker scored 15 points, Donovan Mitchell added 10 on his 23rd birthday and the U.S. contained NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo to defeat Greece 69-53 in a second-round game at the FIBA 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 for Greece (2-2).
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.
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