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2019 FIBA World Cup: Team USA basketball routs Japan

By Connor Grott
2019 FIBA World Cup: Team USA basketball routs Japan
Jaylen Brown of Team USA attempts to score against Japan during the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup on Thursday in Shanghai, China. Photo by Wu Hong/EPA-EFE

Sept. 5 (UPI) -- The U.S. men's basketball team cruised to a 98-45 win over Japan on Thursday to wrap up the first round of the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

Team USA, led by Jaylen Brown's 20 points, overcame two injuries to key players to finish with a 3-0 record in first-round matchups.

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"I think we're getting better with each outing, and that's our goal," Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich told reporters. "We haven't been together very long, and I think our players are enjoying playing with each other and understanding that consistency is necessary and what we have to do as a team to be successful.

"In that regard, they were very serious tonight and they respected the Japanese team very much. They didn't take anything for granted. So I was pleased with their performance."

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Boston Celtics teammates Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart sat out of Team USA's victory. Tatum sprained his left ankle during the Americans' overtime win over Turkey on Tuesday, and Smart has a strained left quad.

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Despite missing Tatum and Smart, the U.S. men's squad (3-0) held Japan to single digits in the first and third quarters and jumped out to a 56-23 halftime lead.

"I think we have a lot of room for improvement," Brown said. "Of course, we're looking forward to the next matchup. I think we're focused on us, just trying to get better, and represent our country the right way."

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Team USA point guard Kemba Walker recorded 15 points and a team-high eight assists. Harrison Barnes had 14 points and eight rebounds. Joe Harris and Donovan Mitchell each added 10 points.

Yudai Baba led Japan (0-3) with 18 points on 8-of-15 shooting. Washington Wizards lottery pick Rui Hachimura struggled for the Japanese squad, scoring only four points (2-of-8 shooting) in 24 minutes.

Team USA will play reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo and Greece on Saturday in the first game of the second round.

RELATED 2019 FIBA World Cup: Team USA basketball edges Turkey in overtime

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