When the Golden State Warriors defeated the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the 2022 NBA Finals, it concluded an almighty defensive performance that powered their return from a 2-1 deficit to an historic championship victory.
For all the offensive brilliance that the Warriors have produced under Steve Kerr, it’s often been the defensive end where wins have been delivered. So, it only makes sense that the same should be true as Kerr has taken the reigns of Team USA at the FIBA World Cup.
After a shock 110-104 loss to Lithuania on Sunday, the U.S. bounced back with a dominant 100-63 victory over Italy in their quarter-final at the Mall of Asia Arena in the Philippines on Tuesday.
Steve Kerr re-established the sort of defensive identity that’s underpinned the Golden State Warriors’ success in Team USA’s win over Italy.
With Lithuania having shot 56% from three-point range in the final second-round group game, the U.S. quickly made amends by restricting Italy to just 24 points in the first-half on Tuesday to effectively lock the game away within the first 20 minutes of play.
The Italians were kept to a paltry 31% from the floor, including just 18.4% from three-point range, as a rampant U.S. threw the kind of length, athleticism and pressure that they were ill-equipped to handle.
Speaking following the game, Kerr was well aware that it was the kind of defensive performance the U.S. will need to reproduce on a further two occasions should they wish to secure the gold medal.
"“Just a great defensive effort. Our guys got after it right from the beginning, put pressure on and kept the pressure on, and the next group came in and did the same thing. It was our best defensive effort of the tournament to this point.”"
Team USA turned their defense into efficient offense, scoring 25 points from turnovers and recording a 30-13 differential in fastbreak points. Mikal Bridges led the way with 24 points and seven rebounds on 8-for-11 shooting, while Tyrese Haliburton had 18 points, four rebounds, five assists and three steals off the bench.
Team USA will now await the winner of the Germany-Latvia quarter-final to take place on Wednesday morning (PT), with Serbia also advancing to the semi-finals after a comfortable victory over Lithuania.