USA defense stifles Italy and sends a strong message

MANILA (Philippines) – They missed the Semi-Finals in 2019, but the United States are once again a final four team, after cruising to a comfortable 100-63 win over Italy in the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila.                                              Coach Steve Kerr and his players now wait for the winner of the Germany v Latvia matchup in their part of the bracket. Italy will continue the event in the Classification Games 5-8.

Lithuania defeated the USA thanks in large to their hot shooting start when they made their first nine three-pointers. USA decided to put more emphasis on stopping any kind of shooting, and their full court zone-press tortured Italy completely.Coach Gianmarco Pozzecco could not get any kind of rhythm, and his men scored just 24 points in the first half. That was the second-lowest scoring first half by any team in the FIBA Basketball World Cup Quarter-Finals, surpassing only Turkey’s 23-point half against Argentina in 2006.The United States scored 46 points in that same interval, opening up a 22-point lead, more than enough to go on cruise control in the second half.

Mikal Bridges is known as an elite defensive player, but his offensive output has been impressive in Manila. This was his third straight game in double figures, and he had 14 points before the halftime break.He counted to 24 on the day, done on 8-of-11 shooting, including 4-of-6 from deep, while grabbing 7 rebounds, getting 2 steals and a block in just 18 minutes of work.Tyrese Haliburton with six three-pointers and 18 points, just the third player with six or more threes in a Quarter-Finals game in World Cup history, joining Patty Mills (also 6, in 2019), and Larry Ayuso (7, in 2002).

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The crowd in Manila had two smooth Quarter-Finals, without any drama. Coach Kerr will be happy with the load management, none of his players played more than 25 minutes in this game, and Cameron Johnson was the only one without a point scored. For Italy, Simone Fontecchio was the only bright offensive spot, scoring 18 points on the night. They have already improved compared to their 10th place finish in 2019, but that 1978 edition (also in Manila) remains the last time they reached the top four.

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