US defense key in win against Giannis, Greece

Greece star Giannis Antetokounmpo was kept quiet by the US in the their World Cup showdown

Rudy Gobert said: "It was like a final for us".

He was seen remonstrating with the officials after Greece's fate was sealed, but overall the reigning MVP was not on the top of his game at the World Cup. The two competed against each other as members of the Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks in the playoffs the past two years. France led after three quarters 65-54 and withstood a closing charge by Lithuania, which was led by ex-Toronto Raptor Jonas Valanciunas with 18 points and eight rebounds. The US are missing their National Basketball Association megastars but they appear to be warming to the task. Yet given the success he has had in this tournament with such lineups, one of the most important storylines of the rest of the World Cup will be how willing he is to rely on them.

"We go as far as Giannis goes", Calathes said.

Antetokounmpo started as he meant to go on, scoring seven consecutive points with thunderous dunks and a three-point jump shot that lit up the packed stadium. They now stand alone atop Group K and have officially clinched a spot in the quarter-finals of the World Cup. The team lost to Brazil 93-92 on Tuesday despite 13 points from Antetokounmpo, who won the NBA MVP in June 2019.

That was five points in the first 43 seconds for Antetokounmpo - but nothing came easy the rest of the way, as the USA used no fewer than five different defenders on him at times. But we've got bigger fish to fry.

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Greek and United States of America players had words after the game, and there was some tension, although nothing got physical.

"The situation with Giannis, it's a little bit complicated. you have to protect Giannis and his health". But with the Greeks facing elimination if they lose, plus the value of a chance at a vulnerable American team, the expectation is that Antetokounmpo will leave it all on the floor Saturday. But the USA, devoid of superstars with significant national team experience, needed a strong performance against Japan to further jell as a national team, especially with Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum out with injury.

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With the win, the Americans will automatically advance to the quarterfinals next week. The victory was overshadowed slightly by a skirmish at the end after Thanasis Antetokounmpo, older brother of Giannis, committed a hard foul on Harrison Barnes.

"Looking forward to it", Brown said.

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