MANILA, Philippines – Team USA’s Anthony Edwards and Jordan’s Ronday Hollis-Jefferson added some excitement to what could have been a low-drama match, staging an American court-style duel not usually seen at the FIBA World Cup.
The two guards went back and forth to rack up points and give the fans at the Mall of Asia Arena something to watch out for besides the score as Team USA won 110-62 on Wednesday to finish pool play 3-0.
The United States qualifies for the second round in the FIFA World Cup, and will play Montenegro, which it beat 2-1 to get out of its group, on Friday.
Edwards seemed happy to meet Hollis Jefferson, the former NBA player who came in as the event’s second leading scorer and one of the happy stories in Week 1. He competed defensively and clearly had a lot of rebounding and energy.
The Minnesota Timberwolves star threw multiple dunks, three 3-pointers, and even a pass from behind. Edwards finished the game with 22 points in 19 minutes, which shows how brilliant he was in the game, as he also grabbed eight rebounds and four assists.
Edwards also fouled Hollis Jefferson twice, something the 28-year-old has become an expert at playing abroad over the past two seasons. After making 15 errors in a 39-point game against New Zealand on Monday, Hollis-Jefferson led the USA team, spun and stabbed him to foul eight times in the first half alone.
Hollis finished Jefferson with 20 points and 7 rebounds despite slowing down after spraining his left ankle while heading to the basket in the first half.
The encounter with Edwards was generally good—although there was a bit of talking between plays—as the two guarded each other for much of the time they spent in the game together.
In a moment that epitomized that display, Edwards scored two straight goals during the third quarter. At first, Jordanian Amin Abu Hawas tried to stand in the way of Edwards and forced him to give up his distinctive diving attempt and settle for throwing the ball. Edwards gave him a sideways glance to spoil the opportunity.
Seconds later, after Jordan spun, Edwards had the ball on the break again. This time Abu Hawass slowed down behind Edwards when he made a windmill throw to the crowd’s delight.
Team USA head coach Steve Kerr had seen enough late in the third period, calling a timeout to get his key players out. Edwards said goodbye by throwing a 35-foot putt that did not count.
The most important thing that happened to the Americans in the match was the change of the starting lineup, which was the first change that Kerr made last month. He replaced Josh Hart, who played solidly in the win over Greece on Monday, in place of Brandon Ingram.
The move was made in favor of Ingram as he was mostly struggling working as a shooter. With the second unit, he was able to play with the ball more in his hands as he was used to with the New Orleans Pelicans.
Ingram immediately looked more comfortable as a playmaker and had his best game in Manila, notching five assists and seven points in 15 minutes.
Jaren Jackson Jr. also had a solid game with 12 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks.
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