ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Much got made earlier this week after USA Basketball’s national team was soundly beaten by a bunch of G League players during a scrimmage in practice.
Maybe it was a wake-up call.
The Americans are on their way to the other side of the world, and they’ll have a win to think about on the way to Australia. Donovan Mitchell scored 13 points, Khris Middleton added 12 and the U.S. topped Spain 90-81 on Friday night in a warmup exhibition in advance of the FIBA World Cup that starts in China on Aug. 31.
The U.S. is the top-ranked team in the world, Spain the second-ranked club.
The U.S. led virtually the whole way, saw its lead trimmed to eight on a 3-pointer by Spain’s Sergio Llull with 4:10 left – and responded with an 8-0 run over the next minute to restore order quickly. Joe Harris made a 3 to start the flurry, Derrick White got a runner from the lane to fall and Jayson Tatum’s 3-pointer from near the U.S. bench with 3:15 left made it 88-72 as the Americans sealed matters.
Toronto’s Marc Gasol led everyone with 19 points for Spain. Phoenix’s Ricky Rubio had 16 for Spain, and Llull finished with 11.
It was the first official win for Gregg Popovich as head coach of the national team, and the senior program’s 77th consecutive victory overall – a run that goes back to the bronze medal game of the 2006 world championships, now called the World Cup, and continuing on through the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship, the Olympic runs in 2008, 2012 and 2016 and the World Cup titles in 2010 and 2014.
Most of those 77 wins have been one-sided. Only nine have been by single digits, and Spain has been the opponent in four of those contests.
The U.S. led 54-41 at the half, after being up by as many as 16 in the second quarter. Even with Popovich using a 12-man rotation in the first half, the Americans were clicking almost from the outset. They shot 61 percent in the half, started 7 for 11 from 3-point land – one of those four misses being a 60-foot try by Tatum that hit the rim – and outrebounded Spain 21-9 over the opening two quarters.
Spain started the second half on a 9-4 run, getting within 58-50 midway through the third, but the Americans rebuilt the lead to 71-58 going into the fourth.
Spain: Before getting to the World Cup, Spain has exhibitions left against the Dominican Republic, Argentina and Russia. … Much like the U.S., which needed 52 players to get through World Cup qualifying, the Spaniards also changed lineups often to get through those six two-game windows just to qualify for China. Spain used 29 players in those 12 games.
USA: Mason Plumlee started at center to open the game, Myles Turner started at center to open the second half. … Houston’s P.J. Tucker (left ankle) withdrew from consideration for the World Cup roster on Friday, a decision announced a few hours before the game. That trimmed the U.S. roster to 14 in line for 12 spots on the World Cup squad. … Boston’s Marcus Smart (left calf) did not play, though is expected to take part in the exhibitions in Australia that start on Thursday.
The U.S. is scheduled to play three games (two against Australia, one against Canada) and practice five times in Australia before leaving for Shanghai on Aug. 28. The Americans open World Cup play Sept. 1 against the Czech Republic.
Spain: Host Dominican Republic in an exhibition at Madrid on Thursday.
USA: Visit Australia in an exhibition at Melbourne on Thursday.