Anthony Edwards Takes Command as Team USA Secures Victory Over Puerto Rico in FIBA World Cup Tune-up Game
LAS VEGAS — Anthony Edwards, a standout All-Star from the Minnesota Timberwolves, was the final addition to Coach Steve Kerr’s starting lineup for Team USA. Edwards took the lead in the team’s exhibition victory over Puerto Rico. Edwards showcased his prowess on both offense and defense, tallying 15 points, four steals, and four assists. His impressive performance included a 7-of-12 shooting record from the field in Team USA’s resounding 117-74 win against Puerto Rico during the initial FIBA World Cup preparation game held at T-Mobile Arena.
In this one-sided match, multiple American players demonstrated their exceptional skills. Noteworthy contributions came from Cam Johnson, who netted 15 points off the bench. Mikal Bridges added 14 points, while Tyrese Haliburton made a remarkable impact with 12 assists and seven points as a bench player. Jalen Brunson secured a double-double, amassing 11 points and 12 rebounds.
In total, seven members of the USAB team achieved double-digit scores in the game. During the prior week’s scrimmages against the U.S. Select team, Coach Kerr opted for a starting lineup comprising Brunson, Bridges, Brandon Ingram, and Jaren Jackson Jr. The recent exhibition against Puerto Rico marked a shift in the lineup, introducing Edwards to the starting group.
Team USA Chose Jaren Jackson Jr. as Top Performer in FIBA World Cup Training Camp
In an informal poll conducted by The Athletic among the entire Team USA roster, Jaren Jackson Jr. emerged as the standout player, earning the titles of “best,” “most impressive,” or “standout” of the recently concluded FIBA training camp, based on the votes of his fellow athletes. Jackson, a distinguished NBA All-Star and the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in the league is anticipated to secure a spot in the starting lineup. He is poised to collaborate with Brandon Ingram, Mikal Bridges, Anthony Edwards, and Jalen Brunson.
For Team USA to replicate similar achievements in the upcoming tournament, Jackson’s substantial influence on offense and defense will be pivotal. The events in Las Vegas on Monday, witnessed by 2021 Olympic gold medalists Kevin Durant and Draymond Green from the front row, could potentially shape Coach Kerr’s starting lineup when Team USA commences the World Cup on August 26 against New Zealand in Manila.
During the game, Team USA faced a Puerto Rican squad featuring two former NBA players, Tremont Waters and John Holland. Although Team USA led by six points after the first quarter and maintained a 50-43 advantage at halftime, their performance from beyond the arc, shooting just 2-of-15 from 3-point range in the first two quarters, and occasional defensive lapses were noticeable. Anthony Edwards stepped up in the third quarter, contributing 11 points, while a dominant 20-0 scoring run spanning the third and fourth periods solidified Team USA’s lead and prevented a repeat of the disappointing moments from its illustrious history.
Remembering the Defeat Against Puerto Rico in the 2004 Olympics
During the 2004 Olympics, Puerto Rico handed Team USA their most significant point differential loss of 19 points. Similarly, in Las Vegas two years ago, Team USA faced setbacks in their Olympic exhibition matches, falling to Nigeria and Australia.
Jaren Jackson Jr., the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year and the player elected as the standout of the recently concluded training camp by his Team USA peers began the game on a strong note, registering eight points in the opening quarter. He concluded the match with 12 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks. However, he encountered challenges with foul trouble, a notable aspect due to the limitation of five fouls per game, unlike the NBA’s allowance of six. Jackson garnered his third foul with over eight minutes remaining in the third quarter. Given his history of leading the league in fouls last season, this development warrants close attention.
Adding an element of surprise, Coach Kerr opted for Paolo Banchero as the backup center, supporting Jackson. Banchero typically assumes roles as a power forward and wing player for the Magic.
Tremont Waters, who previously played for Boston, Toronto, and Washington over three seasons, led Puerto Rico’s efforts with 17 points. Jose Alvarado from the Pelicans was seated near the Puerto Rico bench but won’t partake in the World Cup due to his ongoing recovery from a stress reaction in his right tibia, which caused him to miss the final 20 games of the regular season.