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Group phase officially open as Team USA stomps New Zealand

The road to the 2023 Men’s Basketball FIBA World Cup is officially on and it could not have gotten off to a better start for Team USA.

This year’s national team opened group play with a, 99-72, win over the Tall Blacks Saturday, Aug. 26 from the Mall of Asia Arena in the Philippines. New Zealand has still never beaten the red, white and blue in any world cup competitions.

Slotted in Group C, the U.S. starts 1-0 while sending New Zealand to an opposite 0-1 mark to open. Up next, the USA will take on the other 1-0 team from the group in Greece. That game is scheduled to take place Monday, Aug. 28 with tip-off set for 5:40 a.m. locally.

In their first official showing, it was the bench of Team USA that produced 54 of the team’s 99 total points.

Reserve forward Paolo Banchero scored 12 of his game-high 21 points in the third quarter when the men’s national team pulled away for good. The team doubled it’s nine-point halftime lead to 18 points in the third 10-minute interval.

Banchero also did it on the defensive end, finishing the night with four blocks.

Fellow reserve Austin Reaves added 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting, all of which seemed to come at the perfect time. It was a Reaves’ three that gave Team USA it’s first lead of the game at 19-16 in the first quarter.

In the second half, he gave the team its largest lead at 15 points after a steal followed by a dunk in transition. Soon after, he’d drill a jumper to push the lead to 17 right out of a timeout.

Guard Tyrese Haliburton’s 10 points accounted for the final backup to reach double-digit scoring.

Guard Anthony Edwards led all starters with 14 points fueled by 10 in the first half. Forward Jaren Jackson Jr. contributed 12 points while guard Jalen Brunson chipped in with 10 of his points.

As a team, Team USA shot 59% from the field while also shooting more than double the amount of free throws as its opponent. As a result, New Zealand chucked up 10 more three-point attempts than its opponent while finishing with one more make the men’s national team.

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