U.S. opens FIBA World Cup with big win; Canada routs France

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The U.S. men’s basketball team opened the FIBA World Cup with a 99-72 win over New Zealand in group play in the Philippines.

Paolo Banchero, 20 and the youngest American man to play at a World Cup in 17 years, had a game-high 21 points. It’s the most points scored by an American man in his global championship debut since Paul Pierce in 2002.

New Zealand led during the second quarter, but the U.S. pulled away in the third, and in the fourth mostly rested its starting lineup: Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges, Anthony Edwards, Brandon Ingram and Jaren Jackson Jr.

The entire U.S. roster made its global championship debut for head coach Steve Kerr, who succeeded Gregg Popovich after the U.S. won a fourth consecutive Olympic title in Tokyo.

FIBA WORLD CUP: Schedule, Results

The U.S. next plays Greece (without Giannis Antetokounmpo) on Monday. The top two teams from its four-team group, which also includes Jordan, advance to a second group stage.

The U.S. bids to reclaim the World Cup title after finishing seventh at the last edition in 2019, its worst major tournament result ever.

The most notable result of the first two days of games came Friday. Canada, which last qualified for the Olympics in 2000, thumped Olympic silver medalist France 95-65.

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 27 points with 13 rebounds and six assists. Gilegous-Alexander is one of two 2023 All-NBA players at the World Cup along with Slovenia’s Luka Doncic.

Canada is bidding to qualify for the Olympics for the first time since the early Steve Nash era in 2000. The World Cup is its first chance.

The top two teams from the Americas qualify for Paris. Others can still qualify through a last-chance tournament next year, likely in June.

At the Tokyo Games, France handed the U.S. its first loss in Olympic play since 2004. That was in the group stage. The U.S. rebounded to beat France in the final.

For the Paris Games, France could have a triple towers lineup of seven-footers Joel Embiid (if he chooses to play for France over the U.S.), Rudy Gobert and No. 1 draft pick Victor Wembanyama. However, Gobert is the only player from that group at the World Cup.

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