Amer­i­cans top Greece in WC

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Sports - By TIM REYNOLDS

Temba Walker scored 15 points, Dono­van Mitchell scored 10 on his 23rd birth­day and the U. S. con­tained NBA MVP Giannis Antetokoun­mpo, de­feat­ing Greece 6953 in a sec­ond-round game at the World Cup. Harrison Barnes and Derrick White each scored nine for the U. S. ( 4- 0), which can clinch a quar­ter­fi­nal berth Mon­day.

SHEN­ZHEN, China — The MVP was good. The USA was bet­ter.

And the Antetokoun­mpo get­ting talked about most by the Amer­i­cans when this much-an­tic­i­pated World Cup matchup was over wasn’t Giannis — but rather Thana­sis, the younger brother, who sent U.S. for­ward Harrison Barnes sprawl­ing with an ill-ad­vised foul from be­hind on a fast break in the fi­nal mo­ments.

Barnes avoided in­jury, and the U.S. avoided de­feat. Kemba Walker scored 15 points and handed out six as­sists, Dono­van Mitchell scored 10 on his 23rd birth­day and the U.S. beat Greece 69-53 to move on the cusp of qual­i­fy­ing for the quar­ter­fi­nals.

“We played well,” Walker said. “We had a great game plan and we stuck to it and we were able to come out with a big win.”

Giannis Antetokoun­mpo, the NBA’s MVP from the Mil­wau­kee Bucks, scored 15 points but sat out the fourth quar­ter in a move Greek of­fi­cials said was made to rest him for the team’s last-ditch ef­fort to make the quar­ter­fi­nals on Mon­day. He didn’t make him­self avail­able for postgame com­ment, telling of­fi­cials that he was too up­set.

The U.S. na­tional team has won 57 con­sec­u­tive games in in­ter­na­tional tour­na­ments with NBA play­ers, start­ing with the 2006 world cham­pi­onships bronze-medal game and con­tin­u­ing through ev­ery FIBA Amer­i­cas, world cham­pi­onships, World Cup and Olympic event since. The streak started af­ter a 101-95 loss to Greece in 2006 — a de­feat that forced the U.S. to change its pro­gram.

The Amer­i­cans haven’t lost in the big­gest tour­na­ments since.

“It was a good test for us,” U.S. coach Gregg Popovich said. “And it helped us get bet­ter. That’s our goal, to get bet­ter in ev­ery one of th­ese games.”

Barnes and Derrick White each scored nine for the U.S., which can clinch a quar­ter­fi­nal berth Mon­day in mul­ti­ple ways — the sim­plest be­ing a win over Brazil. There also are ways for the U.S. to move on even if it loses Mon­day.

It was the first time a reign­ing MVP faced the U.S. in a ma­jor tour­na­ment, and Giannis Antetokoun­mpo has made no se­cret of how much this event means to him. His eyes were closed as he mouthed along with the words of Greece’s na­tional an­them pregame, and when the ball went up he came out fir­ing.

He spun his way to a layup on the first pos­ses­sion, made a 3-pointer on Greece’s sec­ond pos­ses­sion and got fouled on a base­line drive on the next trip down the floor. That was five points in the first 43 sec­onds for Antetokoun­mpo — but noth­ing came easy the rest of the way, as the U.S. used no fewer than five dif­fer­ent de­fend­ers on him at times.

Barnes drew the ini­tial as­sign­ment, fol­lowed by the MVP’s Mil­wau­kee team­mate Khris Mid­dle­ton, Jaylen Brown, Mar­cus Smart and Myles Turner.

“We just wanted to make it as hard as pos­si­ble for him, and I think we did a good job,” Smart said.

Antetokoun­mpo had a steal and dunk late in the third, which got plenty of fans out of their seats and Greek fans wav­ing flags. But his night ended soon af­ter­ward, although the drama was still go­ing.

His brother’s foul from be­hind on Barnes came with 1:43 left in a 13-point game — Barnes jumped a pass for a steal near mid­court, had a clear path for a dunk and Thana­sis Antetokoun­mpo sent him tum­bling to the court with a hard hit that was ruled a com­mon foul.

As­so­ci­ated Press

DE­FENSE Greece’s Giannis Antetokoun­mpo tries to hold on to the ball near United States’ Khris Mid­dle­ton at left and Jaylen Brown dur­ing the FIBA World Cup in south­ern China on Satur­day.

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