After defeating Greece and Giannis Antetokounmpo 69-53 to remain undefeated in the 2019 FIBA World Cup, Team USA is one game away from advancing to the quarterfinals. Next up is Brazil, who lost on Saturday to the Czech Republic and is now in a win-or-hope-the-tie-breakers-break-your-way situation.
U.S.A. vs. Brazil
September 9 | 7:30 AM CT | Shenzhen
Injuries: Jayson Tatum (ankle — day-to-day)
The Road to the Quarterfinals
Above is the current standings for Group K. As previously mentioned, results from the first round carried over. A win is worth 2 points, and a loss is worth 1. There are a multitude of ways the Americans can automatically clinch a berth in the knockout rounds against Brazil, and not all of them include a win. Obviously a win over Brazil would get it done (and would also win them the group), and another would be a Greece win over the Czech Republic.
Should the U.S. and Czechs lose, the result would be a tie for 2nd place with Greece, which would result in the Americans advancing thanks to their win in the only head-to-head match-up.
The only way they would fail to advance is if both Brazil and the Czech Republic won. If that were to happen, Team USA would head to the classification rounds, where they could no longer medal but would compete with the 16 other eliminated teams for a spot in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
In other words, the odds are pretty slim that Gregg Popovich’s squad doesn’t advance, but anything is possible, and nothing can be taken for granted. If they just do what they’ve been doing and take care of business against a less talented Brazil squad, there will be zero doubt.
Defense is key
The offense for the Americans has been hit-or-miss at times (pun intended), but the defense has been stout in their last two games. Per ESPN, they have held Japan and Greece to a combined 98 points after allowing Turkey 92. It’s the fewest points the U.S. has allowed in consecutive games of a major international tournament since the 1988 Olympics, when they gave up a combined 92 points to Egypt and Puerto Rico in consecutive games.
They have also only trailed for a total of 7:48 out of 165 minutes throughout the entire tournament. They have led for 147:02 and have been tied for 10:10.
It hasn’t always been pretty with this squad, but they’re embracing the lack of belief in them and winning games with defense, grit, and heart. In other words, just the way Pop likes it.