Team USA will look for their third straight win to start off the 2019 FIBA World Cup when they take on Japan on Thursday, though they will be without one of their key contributors, as Jayson Tatum will miss the contest due to an ankle injury that he suffered against Turkey on Tuesday.
While the United States has started the tournament 2-0, Japan hasn’t had the same success, as they dropped both games that they have played against Turkey and the Czech Republic.
Team USA has already guaranteed a spot into the second round by winning two of their first round games, so the matchup with Japan isn’t necessarily a must-win, but it will provide the team with a solid opportunity to improve before moving forward in the tournament.
With that said, here’s everything you need to know about the game.
FIBA World Cup 2019: USA vs. Japan
Date: Thursday, Sept. 5
Time: 8:30 a.m. ET
Location: Shanghai Oriental Sports Arena — Shanghai, China
Live stats: GameTracker
Odds: USA -29
USA: Team USA may be 2-0, but there is still a lot of room for improvement, as it took overtime and some poor free-throw shooting on Turkey’s part for them to walk away with a win in their second game. If the team wants to win its third straight FIBA gold medal, it will need to play better basketball moving forward; something that the players are aware of.
“There is so much room for improvement,” guard Kemba Walker said. “We have a bunch of young guys, we’re a new team, we’re still learning. We’re still learning each other. But I think [Tuesday], that win [over Turkey], it’s going to help us, you know, take this team to another level.”
With their advancement to the second round already locked up, look for Team USA to use the game against Japan to smooth things out and sharpen their play on both ends of the floor.
Japan: Japan has had a rough start to the World Cup as they have lost both of their games thus far, and neither have been particularly close. Japan won’t advance to the second round of the tournament, but it will still be motivated to avoid going 0-3, and to pull off a big-time upset over the United States.
Even with Tatum sidelined with an ankle injury for the United States, this game shouldn’t be particularly close. Team USA is a deeper, and more talented team, and they should be able to make short work of a Japanese team that has fallen to the two other teams that the U.S. already beaten (Czech Republic, Turkey). While the game could technically be a trap game for a U.S. team that has already clinched their advancement to the second round, it’s safe to say that coach Gregg Popovich will have his guys focused and ready to go.
Pick: USA 94, Japan 70