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The most exciting news from Team USA’s 98-45 win over Japan on Thursday was the fact the next opponent features NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
That’s right, it’s the U.S. vs. Antetokounmpo and Greece in the FIBA World Cup, Saturday morning, live from Shanghai, China. Be there. Or at least in front of a television somewhere.
Other than that, this was a basketball bloodbath, a game in which the U.S. built a 11-0 lead — and that was about the best of times for Japan.
After that, this was little more than a comedy show.
For the U.S., it was quite a difference from the one-point anxiety attack of an overtime win over Turkey on Tuesday. Basically, Japan provided the light scrimmage the U.S. really needed.
Jaylen Brown led five players in double figures with 20 points. Boston Celtics teammate Kemba Walker tacked on 15 with eight assists and Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings) scored 14.
Along with that, Japan standout and Washington Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura was held scoreless in the first half. His lone highlight came via a facial off a dunk on U.S. center Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers).
Hachimura finished with just four points on 2-of-8 shooting. Japan was 27 percent from the floor overall.
“I think we’re getting better with each outing,” U.S. coach Gregg Popovich said.”That’s our goal. We haven’t been together very long. I think our players are enjoying playing together and understanding the consistency that is necessary to do what we have to do.”
The U.S. improved to 3-0 to advance to the second round, while Japan finished 0-3. The Czech Republic upset Turkey to finish 2-1 and also advance to the second round from Group E.
“I think we’ve got a lot of room for improvement,” Brown said. “Of course, we are looking forward to the next matchup (vs. Greece). I think we are focused on us and getting better and representing our country the right way.”
The U.S. was without Celtics wing Jayson Tatum (sprained ankle) and guard Marcus Smart, who has a late scratch with a quad issue. Tatum has also been listed as out for Saturday.
Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks) scored 24 points to lift Greece to a 103-97 win over New Zealand on Thursday. The Greeks are 2-1 after rebounding from a loss to Anderson Varejao and Brazil.