SHENZEN, China – NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo was unable to save Greece as holders the United States reached the FIBA World Cup quarterfinals with a 69-53 win on Saturday, September 7.
In front of a capacity 12,000 crowd in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, Gregg Popovich's world and Olympic champions had 2 or sometimes 3 players on Greece's danger man.
Stop the 24-year-old from the Milwaukee Bucks and you stop Greece was clearly the mantra and they were comfortable in making it a fourth win in 4 games.
The victory was overshadowed slightly by a skirmish at the end after Thanasis Antetokounmpo, older brother of Giannis, committed a hard foul on Harrison Barnes.
"Apologies only go so far," said an angry Barnes.
"If I don't get up, something would have happened (an injury), then apologies is not going to help us in the next game."
Also into the quarterfinals were Australia and France, but Greece need a big win over the Czech Republic on Monday to advance.
San Antonio Spurs coach Popovich, whose team is warming to the task of lifting a third title in a row, said: "It was a good test and helped us get better. That's our goal to get better in every one of these games."
After limiting the Greeks and Antetokounmpo, Popovich conceded that "defense is ahead of the offense, for sure.
"But that's expected from 12 guys who have never played together before... each day that we have we hope that our execution can get better and better, and as coaches learn what's best for these guys."
There was a buzz of anticipation each time Antetokounmpo had possession and despite close American attention he finished with a double-double of 15 points and 13 rebounds.
Kemba Walker, a leading light for the Americans in China, topscored for the defending champions with 15 points and also had 6 assists.
This is no "Dream Team" with the US missing its NBA megastars and failing to really light up the tournament. They labored to an overtime victory in the first round against Turkey.
But there are signs they are warming to the task and they were never in serious danger against Greece in this second-round encounter.
After a tight 1st quarter when Antetokounmpo scored 7 points, Team USA – whose roster is one of the youngest in the competition at average age 26 – turned the screw.
They were up 13 points at halftime and Antetokounmpo, serenaded by chants of "MVP! MVP!", missed two free throws in the 3rd as the US stretched into an insurmountable lead. – Rappler.com