The U.S. men’s basketball team rebounded from near defeat to crush Japan by 53 points at the FIBA World Cup on Thursday.
It routed Japan 98-45, two days after a one-point overtime win over 17th-ranked Turkey. The U.S. won all three of its first-round group games to advance to a second round of group play.
The 53-point margin of victory came just shy of the U.S. record margin of 59 points over Finland in 2014. The record is for the Dream Team era, since teams of NBA superstars started playing at major international tournaments in 1992. The U.S. led by as much as 62 late in the fourth quarter.
The overall U.S. record margin is a 79-point win over South Korea in 1990.
Next up: Greece, led by NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greeks finished second in their group behind Brazil.
“We go as far as Giannis goes,” said Greek teammate Nick Calathes, a former University of Florida standout who played for the Memphis Grizzlies between stints with Greek power Panathinaikos, formerly coached by Rick Pitino.
The top two teams from the second-round group of the U.S., Greece, Brazil and the Czech Republic advance to the quarterfinals next week. The points from the first round of group games carry over.
“He is the MVP, but at the same time, they do have other great players on that team,” said U.S. swingman Khris Middleton, Antetokounmpo’s teammate on the Milwaukee Bucks. “It’s not just all about Giannis.”
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