After obtaining their first painful World Cup defeat on Sunday against Lithuania, there has been plenty of consideration that the United States will come out in a vengeance mode heading to the tournament’s Final Round.
And, eventually, the Americans did. To start their championship chase, the heavyweight squad minced the helpless Italian squad to dust to regain their might, owning their entire quarterfinal play with such fury as the 100-63 final scorecard demonstrated in the jumbotron of the Mall of Asia Arena.
Steve Kerr already expected such determination coming from his troops following their challenging setback against Lietuva, but this rigor even meant a collective beauty that he always aspired for in his youthful squad.
“I mean, we lost the last game. You always want to respond to a loss with a competitive effort. The joy and competitiveness go hand in hand when you compete and you play with that kind of force and energy. And you get the ball moving like Tyrese [Haliburton] was making happen, like Anthony Edwards moving the ball early on,” Kerr said in postgame of their QF win over Gil Azzurri.
“Its just infectious, and then it becomes fun and then it doesn’t matter who scores and who gets the stats. That’s just becomes a team, and that’s when the game is at its peak and when it’s the most fun.”
The Americans obliterated the Italians in all of the cylinders. As 11 players cracked through the scoring board with Mikal Bridges’ 24 points at the top, the United States demonstrated passing clinic with 24 overall dimes made.
This was made possible also through their superior efficient shooting of 54 percent from the field. Furthermore, they also crashed plenty of opportunities by dominating the rebounding area with 51 boards.
For Kerr, this is simply the best response they can deliver after being tested last weekend, and he has no hesitancy that they’ll be able to retain their sizzling performance as their hunt for the coveted Naismith Trophy gets even deeper and deeper.
As they prepare for their next play, the United States is again about to get challenged by either the steamrolling Germany or the ongoing Cinderella team in Latvia at the World Cup’s Semifinal bracket.
“It’s been five week journey for this group, and there’s five more days. That’s how we look at it. When the horse turning back to the barn, the horse starts picking up the pace when it senses that it’s near the barn and that’s what happening right now. Our guys are sensing this end of the journey,” Kerr said.
“The energy picked up tonight, the pace, the force – they know what’s ahead. They know what’s the goal is so I have no doubt they’ll come out with the same energy, same force in the next game.”