Donovan Mitchell scored 16 points, Harrison Barnes added 14 and the U.S. opened its quest for a third consecutive FIBA World Cup gold medal with an 88-67 victory over the Czech Republic on Sunday.
Kemba Walker scored 13 points and Jayson Tatum finished with 10 for the Americans, who pulled away steadily throughout. Myles Turner had seven rebounds and a pair of blocked shots for the U.S.
Tomas Satoransky, the former Washington forward who was traded to Chicago over the summer, led the Czechs with 17 points.
While the Americans’ 78-game winning streak in international games with NBA players ended last month with a loss at Australia, their long winning streak in major tournaments continued. It’s now at 54 games, starting with the bronze-medal game of the 2006 world championships and continuing with gold-medal runs at the 2007 FIBA Americas, 2008 Olympics, 2010 world championships, 2012 Olympics, 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.
The Czechs scored the first four points of the fourth quarter to get within 66-52, but the Americans weren’t threatened. Walker made a 3-pointer to stop the mini-run, found Mitchell in the corner for another 3-pointer that made it 72-52 about a minute later and the outcome was academic from there.
The Czechs had their highlight run early for a quick 11-7 lead, and the couple thousand of their fans in Shanghai — most of them wearing either white or blue team jerseys, with a few Wizards jerseys for Satoransky mixed in there — were roaring.
It didn’t last long.
After a 9-0 run by the Czechs, order was quickly restored. The Americans scored the next 10 points, kick-starting what became a 29-9 run in all, and led by as many as 16 before going into the half with a 43-29 edge.
And it was defense that carried the Americans. Over a 10-minute stretch of the half, the Czechs went 4 for 20 with seven turnovers.
Czech Republic: This was the first World Cup game for the Czechs since 1982, when the tournament was called the world championship and the country was still Czechoslovakia. That nation went 0-3 against the U.S. in past world championship matchups. … Jaromir Bohacik and Vojtech Hruban each scored 13.
U.S.: The Americans started Walker, Mitchell, Tatum, Barnes and Turner. … Mason Plumlee, the only player back from the U.S. 2014 World Cup gold-medal team, was the only player not in U.S. coach Gregg Popovich’s initial 11-man rotation Sunday. Plumlee got his first action in the third quarter. … Walker made all five of his 2-point tries.
This is the 18th FIBA World Cup or world championship — and for the 18th consecutive time, the U.S. has started 1-0. All but four of those opening wins were by double digits; the closest ones were a 37-33 win over Chile in the inaugural event in 1950, an 81-73 victory over Argentina in 1959, a 77-75 win over Australia in 1978 and a 103-95 victory over Greece in 1990. The average margin of victory: 22.6 points.
Popovich and the U.S. staff wore red polos — Popovich and assistant coach Steve Kerr went untucked — and blue pants. The Czech coaches all had on dark suits, unusual for polo-preferring FIBA coaches (Canada’s Nick Nurse went with a gray crewneck sweatshirt earlier Sunday), but ditched the dress shoes for sneakers.
It’s the biggest World Cup ever — 32 teams — and that means there’s more NBA representation in the tournament than ever before as well. There are 54 NBA players from 17 countries in the World Cup. At the last World Cup in 2014, a 24-team event, there were 45 NBA players.
Czech Republic: Faces Japan (0-1) on Tuesday in Shanghai.
U.S.: Faces Turkey (1-0) on Tuesday in Shanghai.
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