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USA vs. Jordan FIBA Preview: Last game for round one

Austin Reaves continues to exceeded expectations in this year’s FIBA World Cup tournament.

Greece v USA: Group C - FIBA Basketball World Cup Photo by Ariana Saigh/Getty Images

MANILA, Philippines — The US men’s basketball team has advanced to the second round of the FIBA World Cup tournament after back-to-back victories against New Zealand last Saturday and Greece on Monday. This means that their next game against Jordan on Wednesday is pretty much a free pass, given that the Americans have sealed their faith for the next round.

Still, Team USA head coach Steve Kerr doesn’t want his squad to slack off. After France’s surprising and disappointing early exit in this year’s tournament, the head coach is reminded that every game matters — whether or not high stakes are involved.

“It’s a good reminder to all of us that you just can’t ease into any game in this tournament. The level of competition is so much better now worldwide than eight years ago. A lot of really good talent around the world and coaching. Teams are really good and we’re going to have to play well over 40 minutes to win so we’re really excited to win the first two and guarantee ourselves a move to the next round but we just keep going. One game at a time and hopefully six more,” Kerr said after USA’s commanding 109-81 victory against Greece.

Team USA is in a comfortable spot, at least as of right now, because their fellow Group C members have yet to solve their all-around firepower, transition-dominant offense, and switch-heavy defense that have led the Americans to cruise through the tournament thus far. The United States won their last two games with a combined 50 points — the most by any team in Group C.

While this doesn’t come off as much of a pleasant surprise (because after all, Team USA is expected to defeat all their opponents in the first round), what has though, are some of the notable performances that have stood out over the past two games. One, in particular, is the ascendance of Austin Reaves, who continues to exceed expectations in this year’s FIBA tournament.

Reaves has developed into a consistent scorer

No, I’m not saying that what Reaves has showcased over the past two games comes off as a surprise. What has though is how every game, the Manila crowd-favorite seems to demonstrate that he has a higher ceiling to reach.

In my last preview, I wrote that Reaves’ FIBA debut performance, where he put up 12 points, six assists, and three steals against New Zealand was further proof of his ascendance as a player. I also wrote that it was going to be interesting to see if he could outdo that and shine even brighter further into the tournament. So what did he do in the following game?

Nothing too big... besides putting together his best all-around performance in the FIBA tournament so far, where he led Team USA in scoring with 15 points on top of six assists, five boards, and two steals. According to FIBA stats and data, the Laker is the first player in the tournament to tally this type of stat line off the bench.

There’s a reason why Kerr has trusted Reaves with more ball-handling and shot-creation duties, as well as to pioneer the second-unit lineup that continues to be Team USA’s strongest asset. Not only is Reaves thriving under Kerr’s system, but in the last two games, he’s averaged 13.5 points, 6 assists, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.5 steals while shooting 62.5% from the field and 60% from the three-point line in 19.8 minutes per game.

The roster has played seven games (including their tune-up games) and suffice it to say that Reaves has been a reliable all-around contributor for the United States throughout the tournament so far.

All eyes now on Greece vs. New Zealand

Now that the Americans have advanced to the next round, the focus for Group C shifts to the last team that will share the same faith as them. That will be decided between Greece and New Zealand, who both currently have the same record (1-1) in the standings.

Both teams lost their game against the United States which is why they will play each other in a knockout contest for the right to advance to the second round on Wednesday, after the Americans take on Jordan. We’ll know by then how Group C will shape out.

Notes and Updates:

  • Jordan, who are ranked 33 in the FIBA rankings, dropped both of their games against New Zealand (95-87) and Greece (92-71) in the past week. They’ve been the underdogs throughout the tournament but compete really hard on both ends of the floor. Watch out for former NBA player Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (AKA the “Kobe Bryant clone”), who put up 39 points, nine rebounds, four assists and two steals on 12-of-24 shooting against New Zealand.
  • Once the first group phase of the tournament commences, the second phase will take place from Aug. 31 - Sept.3.

Set your alarm clocks (or pull an all-nighter for this one), because this game starts earlier than usual. Team USA and Jordan will tip off at 1:40 a.m. PT on Wednesday, Aug. 30. The game will be exclusively televised on ESPN2.

You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani

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