Bouncing back from Sunday’s slow start against Turkey, Team USA made its athletic advantage over New Zealand apparent from the outset in another blowout victory.
A pair of early alley-oops set the tone in a 98-71 win that kept the U.S. atop Group C and on a collision course with fellow unbeaten FIBA World Cup favorite Spain.
Curry and Davis did the heavy lifting in the halfcourt, respectively anchoring a first-half effort that featured 57 percent shooting from distance and 28 points in the paint. After shooting just 4-for-17 during Team USA’s 2-0 start to the World Cup, Curry connected on his first two three-pointers, ultimately scoring 12 points on seven shots, and Davis (21 points, 9 rebounds) continued to lead the U.S. in scoring.
New Zealand’s depth and streaky shooting kept the score close for the first 15 minutes. Three straight triples from guards Everard Bartlett (twice) and Corey Webster cut the lead to 38-29 midway through the second quarter, but Irving’s seven points in a 12-0 run pushed the margin to 20, and the U.S. never looked back.
Even before halftime, Mike Krzyzewski went deep into his bench, helping Mason Plumlee and DeMar DeRozan, among others, gain some valuable international experience over the final few layup games against New Zealand, the Dominican Republic and Ukraine before round-of-16 bracket play begins this weekend.
Derrick Rose got Irving’s starting point guard reps as the third quarter opened, and the U.S. quickly pushed its lead to 30 four minutes into the second half. Team USA made up for 16 turnovers by forcing 22 on 14 steals. Faried (15 points, 11 boards) gave the outfit a 54-22 advantage in the paint while James Harden (13 points), Klay Thompson (12 points) and Irving (10 points) also reached double figures.
About the only thing that confused the U.S. on Tuesday was New Zealand's pregame haka dance.
Maybe Francisco Garcia and the Dominican national team can stop the U.S. streak of 20-point victories on Wednesday, but that athletic advantage isn’t going away anytime soon.