The FIBA Basketball World Cup got off to an exciting start as the United States and top-ranked Spain both secured convincing victories to kick off their campaigns. Saturday’s games showcased dominance, with only one out of eight group matches being closely contested.
Team USA ranked second in the world, began their quest for a record-breaking sixth World Cup championship with a resounding 99-72 win over New Zealand in Manila.
Despite a slow start that saw the Tall Blacks take a 14-4 lead in the first quarter, Team USA rallied back thanks to their second unit, ultimately turning the tide in their favor.
Speaking at a press conference, Team USA coach Steve Kerr praised the performance of the second unit, saying, “The whole second unit really came in and righted the ship after the slow start. New Zealand came out, and hit us in the mouth.” Los Angeles Lakers guard Austin Reaves was a standout player, contributing 12 points and leading the game with six assists.
Next up for Team USA are matches against Greece on Monday and Jordan on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, in Jakarta, defending champions Spain, who hold the top spot in FIBA’s rankings, delivered a commanding 94-64 victory over Ivory Coast.
Willy Hernangomez led the charge with 22 points and five rebounds. Spain aims to become the fourth nation to secure back-to-back World Cup titles and win at least three overall. They will face Brazil on Monday and Iran on Wednesday.
The top two teams from each of the eight groups will advance to the last 16, while the remaining two teams will enter the classification rounds.
In other games on the second day of competition, Puerto Rico secured a thrilling 101-96 overtime win against South Sudan in Manila, underscoring the disparity between European and American teams compared to their counterparts from Africa and Asia.
Greece defeated Jordan 92-71, Serbia made quick work of China with a 105-63 victory, Georgia overcame Cape Verde 85-60, and Slovenia defeated Venezuela 100-85, with Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks scoring an impressive 37 points, the highest single-game total in the tournament so far.
Twice world champions Brazil dominated Iran with a convincing 100-59 victory, with five Brazilian players reaching double-digit scoring in Jakarta.
This 19th edition of FIBA’s flagship event, featuring 32 teams, is unique as it is hosted by three countries. The tournament began on Friday, and the champions will be crowned in Manila on September 10.
Additionally, seven teams – two from the Americas, two from Europe, and one each from Africa, Asia, and Oceania – will secure qualification for the 2024 Paris Olympics based on their performance in the World Cup.