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FIBA World Cup: Setting tone important for Team USA

Mikal Bridges of the US basketball team highlighted their effort in setting the tone that led to a masterful 100-63 win for the Americans over Italy in the quarterfinals of the 2023 FIBA World Cup Tuesday night, Sept. 5 at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena in Pasay City.

USA’s Mikal Bridges lays up during the FIBA Basketball World Cup quarterfinal match between USA and Italy in Manila on September 5, 2023. AFP PHOTO

Bridges, who led the team in scoring with 24 points, said that's their early separation against the Italians proved to be the key point in getting the 'W' that propelled the US to the Final Four.

The crucial victory also got the US back on the win column after faltering in their final game in the second stage with a 110-104 loss to Lithuania last Sunday – a game where they failed to set the tone, falling behind 31-12 in the first period then came back late but fell short.

“I think we just set the tone. That's what we've been preaching, coach (Steve Kerr) has been preaching to us,” said the 6-foot-6 Bridges, who shot 8-of-11 from the field including 4-of-6 from three-point area while adding seven rebounds and two steals in just 18 minutes of action.

“I think the bench did a pretty good job but I think the starters kind of just let them down a little bit with a slow start. That's the whole thing play of force for the whole 40. Don't wait too late, don't wait 'till the end. That's what we did. The coaches got us prepared and we just played hungry.”

With the exception of Cameron Johnson, who was scoreless in 10 minutes, all American players scored two or more points, with Tyrese Haliburton adding 18, and Austin Reeves contributed 12 both off the bench.

Kerr's team shot 36-of-67 (53.7%) from the field, including 11-of-15 (73.3%) from three-point territory, while its defense held Italy to 23-of-75 (30.3%) from the field, 7-of-38 (18.4%) from the trifecta.

The US also controlled the rebounding department 51-33.

“We always play that swagger. I think I just felt that energy off the jump and everybody felt it, the starters, the bench, and we just found each other. Earlier, I gave ANT (Anthony Edwards) a big shout out. I mean ANT can get 30 whenever he wants, easily,” he said.

“Just for him to be unselfish and we talk to him and try to help him out just to find guys and that's we did. He's probably happy doing a lot right now.”

“Shout out to ANT, for that and he knows how dominant he is and he's very confident so just to find guys and I think we kinda fed off that once we saw ant doing that and how happy he was in there. I feel like no matter what our swagger never goes away and we just ready and we're going to stay ready until we stay out of here,” he added.

As to being one of the team's go-to-guys – something he's been doing since he got traded by the Phoenix Suns to the Brooklyn Nets at the trade deadline last season, Bridges said he just looks for the right opportunity.

“I just stayed aggressive that's what it is. Honestly, even coming in tonight I was really locked in on my rebounding that's kind of my struggles through out this whole process but what I showing general. What I showed just in general, it's just that force of being aggressive,” Bridges said.

“I mean how many points we scored? We were all ready to make that shot… we were all ready to make a play so that's never going to wear. We just got dogs in the locker room, we all know what we can do, we can shoot, dribble and pass, defend and do everything,” he added.

The Americans will face in the Final Four the winner of the quarterfinal match between Germany and Latvia, which is being played as of posting time. The semis is set Friday while the Finals is on Sunday.

Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net

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