USA opens FIBA ​​World Cup with big win; Canada beats France

The US men’s basketball team opened the FIBA ​​World Cup with a 99-72 win over New Zealand in group play in the Philippines.

Paolo Banchero, 20 and the youngest American to play in a World Cup in 17 years, had a game-high 21 points. It’s the most points scored by an American in his World Championship debut since Paul Pierce in 2002.

New Zealand led in the second quarter, but the U.S. pulled away in the third and mostly rested its starting lineup in the fourth: Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges, Anthony Edwards, Brandon Ingram and Jaren Jackson Jr.

The entire USA roster made its World Championship debut for head coach Steve Kerr, who replaced Gregg Popovich after the USA won its fourth straight Olympic title in Tokyo.

FIBA World Cup: Schedule, results

USA will play Greece (without Giannis Antetokounmpo) on Monday. The top two teams from the four-man group, which also includes Jordan, advance to the second group stage.

The U.S. is bidding to regain its World Cup title after finishing seventh at the last edition in 2019, its worst finish at a major tournament in history.

The most remarkable result of the first two days of play came on Friday. Canada, which last qualified for the Olympics in 2000, defeated Olympic silver medalist France 95-65.

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 27 points with 13 rebounds and six assists. Gilegous-Alexander is one of two All-NBA 2023 World Cup players, along with Slovenia’s Luka Doncic.

Canada is bidding to qualify for the Olympics for the first time since the early Steve Nash era in 2000. The World Cup is their first chance.

The top two teams from America qualify for Paris. The others can still qualify through a last-chance tournament next year, likely in June.

At the Tokyo Games, France handed the USA its first loss in Olympic play since 2004. It was in the group stage. USA defeated France in the final.

For the Paris Games, France could field a triple lineup of seven-footer Joel Embiid (if he decides to play for France ahead of the U.S.), Rudy Gobert and No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama. However, Gobert is the only player from this group in the World Cup.

Ferdinand Medina

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