Team USA entered the single-elimination phase of FIBA World Cup play with plenty of questions, but pulled away for an easy 86-63 victory over Mexico because of the one thing that has remained constant.
From top to bottom, there isn’t a team in this tournament with more individual talent, or one with more guys that can simply explode offensively at any given time.
On Saturday, it was Stephen Curry who took control, putting on a show in the third quarter that helped put the game even more out of reach than it already was. He scored 11 of his team-high 20 points in the period, getting loose for threes in transition on multiple, consecutive possessions.
Curry’s backcourt mate with the Warriors, Klay Thompson, finished with 15 points of his own, though missed some easy open looks on the way to a 6-of-14 shooting performance. DeMarcus Cousins took advantage of mismatches inside to hit all five of his shots while grabbing seven rebounds in under 14 minutes of action, and Kenneth Faried continued to be active, finishing with eight points and eight rebounds.
Anthony Davis turned in a stellar game defensively, blocking four shots while grabbing six rebounds and coming away with a couple of steals. He was just 2-of-9 shooting, but his offense wasn’t needed with so many others scoring at will against a mismatched opponent.
Derrick Rose struggled again in this one, going scoreless in 16 minutes of play on 0-of-5 shooting. He seemed to be pressing a bit more than we’ve seen, perhaps beginning to lose patience with his game taking (what he believes to be) much longer than expected to return to otherworldly levels.
A bright spot for Mexico and a potential cause for concern for Team USA was the play of Gustavo Ayon. The big man had to have been the focal point of the USA defensive plan, but he still finished with 25 points on 11-of-19 shooting, to go along with eight rebounds. Ayon looked strong, and showcased good footwork and excellent agility against the likes of Davis inside. With the rest of his teammates only able to hit a combined 17 of their 54 shot attempts, however, the game’s final result was never in question.
You’d like to see Team USA put together some cohesive stretches of team play before facing the inevitable matchup with Spain in the tournament’s championship game. But with so many different guys that can singlehandedly take over games offensively the way Curry did in this one, they’re still going to be extremely difficult to beat.