ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A fast start was all USA Basketball needed to remain undefeated as it inches closer to the standings. world Cup.
Anthony Edwards scored 21 points, Cam Johnson added 13 and the United States never trailed Friday in a 108-86 victory over Greece in a World Cup warm-up game for the two teams.
Austin Reaves and Jaren Jackson Jr. each scored 11 for the United States, which improved to 4-0 in its five-game exhibition tour before flying to the Philippines next week to start the World Cup. The Americans had all 12 players score, and Mikal Bridges and Bobby Portis each finished with 10 points.
“I feel like everything is going pretty well,” Edwards said.
Greece is playing without Giannis Antetokounmpo, the two-time NBA MVP for Milwaukee, who is out this summer while recovering from offseason knee surgery. Panagiotis Kalaitzakis and Nikos Rogkavopoulos each scored 12 goals for Greece. Thomas Walkup and Georgios Papagiannis added 11 each.
“These games, these friendlies, they’re glorified practices,” Walkup said. “That’s what they are. Of course you want to win, but we want to come here to compete, to improve, to make things right.
Greece, even without Antetokounmpo, appears to be the best competition for the United States when the World Cup group stage begins next weekend. Greece is the No. 9 nation in the FIBA rankings; New Zealand is No.26 and Jordan No.33.
The top two in each group advance to the second round. Unsurprisingly, the race in Group C appears to be for second place after this exhibition unfolded.
The Americans — as they did at times in their first three matchups against Puerto Rico, a Slovenia team playing without Luka Doncic and Spain — looked dominant at times. They had a double-digit lead midway through the first quarter, led by 17 by the time the game was 9 minutes long, and never looked in trouble.
That said, there are two big areas of concern for U.S. coach Steve Kerr.
“The problem is turnovers and rebounds,” Kerr said. “If we stay even on the possession game, I feel good about our chances against anyone.” The way teams can beat us is if they get extra possessions and force a lot of turnovers and we’re not sharp and we don’t box out. I told our guys. I’ll tell you guys. It’s not really a secret. So that’s our goal.
The United States only outscored Greece 76-71 over the final 31 minutes, largely due to 20 turnovers.
“They let it go a little bit, that’s for sure,” Walkup said. “We are aware of that. We are not wrong.