“We’re the horse turning back to the barn,” Kerr said after Team USA’s 100-63 bounce-back win over Italy on Tuesday at the Mall of Asia Arena in the Philippines to advance to the 2023 FIBA World Cup semifinals.
“The horse starts picking the pace when it senses it’s near the barn. That’s what’s happening right now. Our guys are sensing this is the end of the journey and the energy picked up [Tuesday night], the pace, the force,” Kerr continued.
Team USA played like the thoroughbreds as they raced out of the gates to lead by as many as 41 points.
They put forth their most impressive defensive effort and displayed their impeccable shooting, led by Mikal Bridges (24 points, 7 rebounds) and Tyrese Haliburton (18 points, 5 assists).
Bridges and Haliburton combined to shoot 10-of-14 from beyond the arc, opening the floodgates for the Americans.
After getting pounced on the boards against the bigger and more physical Lithuania and Montenegro, Team USA finally stomped their foot, grabbing a sizable 51-33 rebounding edge that fueled their running game.
They led Italy, 30-13, on fastbreak points.
Their outside shooting punctured Italy’s 2-3 zone defense, while their pressure defense led them to score 25 turnover points.
“Just great defensive effort right from the beginning — put the pressure on and kept the pressure on. It was our best defensive effort up to this point. That’s what it’s going to take to win two more games,” Kerr said.
Steve Kerr Assured of Better Finish Than Gregg Popovich in 2019
It was a masterclass from the Americans, who had already surpassed their seventh-place finish in the 2019 World Cup.
Kerr was on that team as an assistant coach to Gregg Popovich. He took the lessons from there in his bid to lead this young version of Team USA to reclaim the gold medal they have won five times in the world championship history.
Two more wins and the Americans can create a separation from Yugoslavia, now split into Montenegro and Serbia, as the winningest country in the tournament history.
Their next obstacle to the gold medal will be the winner of the Germany-Latvia quarterfinal match. Kerr is confident his players will deliver anew.
“They know what’s ahead. They know what the goal is. So, I have no doubt they will come out with the same energy, the same force the next game,” Kerr said.
Rich Paul Takes a Jab at Stephen Curry
“If Steph [Curry] wins in the bubble, do they discredit it? No, they don’t,” Paul said on the latest episode of Gil’s Arena podcast.
James’ critics have put an asterisk on his fourth title as it came at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when the NBA season was cut short and finished it in an insulated bubble environment with no fans in attendance in Orlando.
Paul’s comments suggest that James is being unfairly discredited compared to Curry, who also has won four championships with the Warriors.
But contrary to Paul’s suggestive narrative, Curry has also been discredited for his championships when Kevin Durant joined them to form a super team.