With a 117-74 thrashing of Puerto Rico on Monday night in Las Vegas Basketball Team USA wrapped up its five-day pre-FIBA World Cup training camp. Coach Steve Kerr was pleased with the effort his team put in as it began what it hopes will be a six-week journey that ends with a gold medal next month in the Philippines.

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After leading the senior national team to victory in his debut match as head coach, Kerr said, “It’s a terrific night for us. “I believe the players have really grasped what we’re trying to implement at both ends, and we’re gradually – coaches included – becoming accustomed to the FIBA regulations and interpretations.

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“It’s all a process of getting used to what we’ll be facing,” the speaker said.

A sluggish first half in which Puerto Rico jumped out to an early 6-2 lead and squad USA trailed 50-43 at the break was followed by a frenzied second half in which the bigger, longer American squad took use of its advantages to throw the game wide open.

Team USA beat Puerto Rico 34-18 in the third quarter and 33-13 in the fourth, causing 18 Puerto Rican turnovers that resulted in 31 points for the Americans and giving them free reign to score in transition.

Jalen Brunson, who started at point guard and finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds in 22 minutes, said that it took the team some time to get rolling but that it’s “pretty fun for us” when we’re playing the defensive side of the ball, getting stops, turnovers, and sprinting. “So, all we have to do is attempt to keep doing that. Simply don’t worry about offending at all, and everything will be OK.

While Kerr refused to reveal his starting five for several days, there were no shocks when the starters were announced just before the game. Along with Anthony Edwards, Mikal Bridges, Brandon Ingram, and Jaren Jackson Jr., Brunson, who Kerr has frequently referred to as the team’s leader, was playing point.

The team Kerr claimed he ultimately went with was the same one that dominated the scrimmages against the U.S. Select Team on Saturday. And despite the sluggish start, that lineup demonstrated in numerous instances how strong it can be going forward for Team USA.

Ingram replied, “I think it worked wonderfully. We have two scorers on the wings, a point guard who keeps everything organized, defensive player of the year [Jaren], and Mikal, who moves all over the court and looks for open places. It’s a good dynamic.

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No player was more vibrant than the perpetually vivacious Edwards, the top choice in the 2020 NBA draft, who recently agreed to a contract extension worth up to $200 million with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Along with finishing with 15 points on 7 of 13 shooting to tie Cameron Johnson for the team lead, Edwards also had four assists and, more crucially, four thefts. He frequently used his length, strength, and speed to pressure the perimeter players of Puerto Rico into making errors.

Edwards described his defensive strategy as “just trying to anticipate where the offense was going,” while grinning. Just using the defense abilities that God has given me.

Anthony was fantastic, said Kerr. His physicality on both ends certainly enhances the FIBA game.

 He is able to avoid contact. They allow a lot of contact on drives, so he can overcome it with strength and then use that same strength defensively to body up opponents and prevent penetration.

So even though I felt the entire Basketball team played well , I thought he was fantastic.

There were a lot of other advantages to the evening. In a game when it made 6-of-27 3-point attempts, Team USA prevailed by a score of 43. In what has the potential to be a highly dangerous second unit that will play extremely quickly, Austin Reaves and Tyrese Haliburton combined for 16 assists to just two turnovers, continuing their stellar play from Basketball training camp.

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Reaves added, “I think it’s really just playing basketball.” “You have players like [Haliburton], who is skilled at the game. It greatly facilitates your task. So all that’s required is that you make the appropriate play.

Over the weekend, Jackson maintained his strong play, finishing with 12 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks. However, he also picked up three quick fouls, which might pose a problem for a Team USA squad that is already weak and for a player who frequently draws fouls in NBA games.

Given his skill with the ball and his ability to drive the ball in transition, current Rookie of the Year Paolo Banchero played a sizable amount of time as the backup center, at times outplaying Bobby Portis behind Jackson.

Josh Hart didn’t play at all, and Utah Jazz big Walker Kessler saw action for a few fourth-quarter minutes. Team USA claimed that Hart’s absence was due to “rest,” despite the fact that he can sign a four-year contract extension with the New York Knicks on Thursday.

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