Throughout the 2023 FIBA World Cup, Team USA had mostly cruised through their first four games. Led by Anthony Edwards, Tyrese Haliburton and Los Angeles Lakers guard Austin Reaves, the Americans dominated the first round group stage and picked up a hard-fought victory over Montenegro in the second round.
But the final game of the second round group play, Team USA was dominated from the beginning against Lithuania and despite their best efforts were never able come back as they suffered their first loss of the tournament. Now they will need to bounce back and there is no room for error as it is now win or go home in the quarterfinals against Italy.
The issues for Team USA are well known and chief among them is rebounding. They don’t have a lot of size and it will be important for Jaren Jackson Jr. to stay out of foul trouble. The good news is that Italy does not have the big, bruising, physical bigs that gave the Americans trouble against both Lithuania and Montenegro.
Italy is led by Utah Jazz forward Simone Fontecchio, who is averaging 18.4 points and 6.6 rebounds. USA will also need to keep an eye on guard Marco Spissu, who leads Italy in assists and is also shooting 46.2% from 3-point range.
Edwards has been outstanding for USA as of late and his 35-point performance against Lithuania was nothing short of outstanding. He was the chief catalyst in getting America back in striking distance and he will need to continue to come up big moving forward.
Reaves will also need to have a huge bounce back game as he struggled with just seven points and five fouls against Lithuania. In fact, the American bench as a whole simply must be better as it has been a strength throughout this tournament led by Reaves and Haliburton.
Perhaps most important in this contest will be the turnover battle and whether USA can force Italy to cough up the ball and get out in transition. Italy averages just 10.6 turnovers as a team while Team USA is averaging that exact same number of steals. Additionally, the 3-point line will be huge as Italy averages nearly 10 more attempts per game, but have been less efficient than the Americans.
If Team USA can force turnovers and shoot well from deep, while continuing to hold their own on the glass, they will have a great chance at advancing to the semi-finals.
Team USA (4-1) vs. Italy (5-0)
5:40 a.m. PT, September 5, 2023
Mall of Asia Arena, Manila, Phillipines
Projected Team USA Starting Lineup:
PG: Jalen Brunson
SG: Anthony Edwards
SF: Mikal Bridges
PG: Josh Hart
C: Jaren Jackson Jr.
Key Reserves: Tyrese Haliburton, Austin Reaves, Paolo Banchero, Brandon Ingram
Projected Italy Starting Lineup:
PG: Marco Spissu
SG: Stefano Tonut
SF: Achille Polonara
PF: Simone Fontecchio
C: Nicolo Melli
Key Reserves: Giampaolo Ricci, Alessandro Pajola, Luigi Datome
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!