Team USA were big favorites heading into their matchup against New Zealand, but their opponents certainly gave them a reason to pause and think in the first quarter. A surprising early run saw New Zealand take a 14-4 lead against the Americans, but their joy was short-lived as the favorites rallied quickly to take a 19-18 lead heading into the second quarter.
Things simply spiralled out of control for New Zealand after that, as they were outscored 80-54 over the final three quarters on the way to a blowout 99-72 defeat at the hands of Team USA.
The need to rally early on is a good reminder to the Americans that nothing will come easy in the later rounds of the tournament, especially as there are plenty of other talented squads, like Canada, France, and Australia, who will be trying to win the gold medal.
What coaches Steve Kerr, Erik Spoelstra and Ty Lue will be happy about, though, is the balanced offense that led to the victory. No American player took more than 10 shots in the game, yet were still able to produce six double-digit scorers in the contest.
They were led by Paolo Banchero, who finished the game with 21 points and four rebounds while making 8 of 10 shots.
Anthony Edwards was the second-leading scorer with 14 points, seven rebounds and three assists, and he went 5 of 10 overall. Jaren Jackson Jr. and Austin Reaves then both contributed 12 points apiece, while Jalen Brunson and Tyrese Haliburton both had 10 points. There was sense of chemistry building as well for the team, with Edwards and Reaves sharing a funny moment with each other in the tunnel after the game.
With 23 total assists, the Americans didn’t have to rely too much on one single player to dominate on scoring. However, they tied New Zealand with 19 turnovers, so they’ll still need to be careful about coughing up the ball.
Still, shooting 59.3% from the field overall and 44.4% from beyond the arc will have Team USA feeling confident about their shotmaking. They will take on Greece next on Monday, August 28, at 8:40pm.