Basketball

Team USA dominates Italy to secure semifinal berth in 2023 FIBA World Cup

Team USA showcased a commanding performance in the quarterfinals of the 2023 FIBA World Cup defeating Italy with a resounding score of 100-63. This victory propels the United States into the semifinals, where they eagerly await the winner of the upcoming showdown between Germany and Latvia.

One of the striking features of this game was Team USA’s ability to avoid another slow start. Throughout the tournament. The Americans had been plagued by sluggish beginnings often trailing by double-digit deficits in their initial matches. This trend reached its nadir with a 21-point deficit against Lithuania in their previous loss. However, with a semifinal spot hanging in the balance, the Americans came out of the gate with conviction establishing a 24-14 lead at the end of the first quarter. A twist in the narrative occurred when Jaren Jackson Jr., the starting center, encountered early foul trouble accumulating two fouls within the first 2 minutes and 14 seconds of play.

This forced coach Steve Kerr to make adjustments substituting Jackson Jr. with Paolo Banchero and opting for a smaller lineup. Fortunately for Team USA, the Italians did not possess a significant size advantage mitigating the potential mismatches that had haunted them against Lithuania. The game remained tightly contested when Team USA’s starters were on the court. However, when Banchero was joined by the second unit, which included Tyrese Haliburton, Austin Reaves, Brandon Ingram, and Bobby Portis, Team USA managed to outscore Italy 14-6, thereby widening the lead to a comfortable margin.

Bridges’ explosive performance

One of the standout performers of the game was Mikal Bridges, who erupted in the first half, propelling the Americans to a commanding lead. Bridges tallied 14 points on an efficient 5-for-7 shooting in the first half. His offensive arsenal included fast break layups, pull-up jumpers, and catch-and-shoot three-pointers. This scintillating performance by Bridges underscored the importance of a hot hand in high-stakes matches and provided the Americans with a crucial edge.

Dominant defense

After conceding 110 points in their loss to Lithuania, Team USA demonstrated a marked improvement in their defensive prowess against Italy. They held Italy to a mere 63 points, restricting their shooting efficiency to a paltry 30.7% from the field. Italy’s struggles extended to their three-point shooting, where they initially converted just three of their first 27 attempts, a dismal 11.1%. Team USA’s defensive strategy involved implementing a half-court trapping defense that effectively disrupted Italy’s motion offense. Even when the traps did not result in outright steals, they generated deflections and forced Italy to contend with the shot clock, disrupting their rhythm throughout the game.

The defensive effort resulted in a staggering 19 turnovers forced by Team USA, which were efficiently converted into 25 points. The Americans also excelled in transition, boasting a 30-13 advantage in fast-break points. In contrast to their previous encounters with Montenegro and Lithuania, where they were dominated on the boards, Team USA also secured an 11-3 edge in second-chance points.

Paolo Banchero’s impact

Paolo Banchero is a player with dual citizenship in the United States and Italy. He made a significant impact on the game. Banchero had the choice of representing either nation in the World Cup and opted to don the Team USA jersey. His decision was met with some controversy and displeasure from the Italian side. However, Banchero remained unfazed by the off-court drama allowing his performance to speak for itself. He contributed eight points on 4-for-8 shooting along with five rebounds, two assists, two steals, and a block. Remarkably, he posted an impressive plus-27 in a team-high 25 minutes on the court.

Perhaps the defining moment of Banchero’s performance occurred at the end of the third quarter. He and Haliburton executed a brilliant trap on Italy’s Gabriele Procida forcing a turnover. Haliburton pilfered the ball and, with an open court ahead delivered a mesmerizing alley-oop pass to Banchero. The result was a thunderous dunk by Banchero right before the third-quarter buzzer igniting celebrations on the USA bench. This breathtaking play encapsulated Team USA’s dominance and effectively put the game out of reach for Italy.

With their emphatic win over Italy, Team USA now sets their sights on the semifinals. Their opponent in this crucial encounter will be determined by the outcome of the match between Germany and Latvia. The Americans are poised and determined to carry their newfound momentum into the semifinals aiming to secure their place in the championship game.

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