USA Basketball vs New Zealand: Game Grades, Analysis for FIBA World Cup Matchup

Luke PetkacFeatured ColumnistSeptember 2, 2014

Anthony Davis had a monster game against New Zealand.
Anthony Davis had a monster game against New Zealand.Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

After an up-and-down performance against Turkey on Sunday, it was important that Team USA came away with a convincing win against the New Zealand Tall Blacks.

Mission accomplished.

The United States skated to an easy 98-71 win, the outcome of which was never really in doubt. There are definitely still a few kinks to work out on both ends, but this was an encouraging (and much-needed) performance on both ends for Team USA.


Team USA Grades:

Stephen Curry: B-

Anthony Davis: A

Kenneth Faried: A+

Kyrie Irving: A-

Klay Thompson: B+

Rest of Team: B+


Stephen Curry: B-

Curry's passing made life easy for his bigs.
Curry's passing made life easy for his bigs.Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Curry was a bit too careless with the ball in this one, but his five turnovers were emblematic of why he was so dangerous—he was always looking to push the ball ahead.

Team USA's bigs were terrific running the floor, and Curry was the reason why they were able to cash in so often. He was sometimes a little overzealous and tried to lead teammates on run-outs that just weren't there, but on the whole, he made life very tough on New Zealand with his passing and shooting.


Anthony Davis: A

Monster two-way performances are starting to look routine for Davis, who racked up 21 points and nine rebounds.

The USA made it a point to isolate Davis on the block, and for good reason—New Zealand simply didn't have anyone who could stay in front of him when he would face up. Davis's hooks and runners were off a bit, but he got to the line 10 times and got a good look every time he touched the ball.

Defensively, Davis was his typical scary self. He only blocked one shot, but New Zealand rarely attacked the paint when he was on the floor and was primarily limited to long jumpers. 


Kenneth Faried: A+

As is typical, Faried outworked everyone on the glass.
As is typical, Faried outworked everyone on the glass.Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Faried got maybe two offensive touches all game and still ended up with 15 points. The Tall Blacks simply had no answer for his energy and athleticism.

Faried ran the floor like mad, beat his man for easy baskets off backdoor cuts and rebounded everything in sight (he finished with 11, including seven offensive). You can't say enough about him. In the early going, Faried made some bad shots look almost like passes with how easily he was able to snag the rebound and put it in for an easy two.

Steph Curry OOP to Kenneth Faried

— Steve Noah (@Steve_OS) September 2, 2014

Faried was even great defensively, blowing up pick-and-rolls and doing a solid job protecting the rim to boot.


Kyrie Irving: A-

Irving catches a lot of (deserved) flak for his defense in the NBA, but he's been outstanding on that end in FIBA play.

Irving made smart gambles in the passing lanes, and New Zealand's ball-handlers had a lot of trouble just dribbling in his general direction without having the ball deflected or stripped. His rotations were similarly impressive, and you could make an easy case that he's been Team USA's best defensive guard thus far through the tournament.

On top of that, Irving got to the rim with ease and cashed in when he was there, finishing with 10 points.


Klay Thompson: B+

Thompson is outstanding spacing the floor.
Thompson is outstanding spacing the floor.Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Thompson was his typical self, spacing the floor and scoring on spot-up threes and looping cuts toward the basket. He didn't do much creating against New Zealand, but he has tremendous pull on defenses just from hovering around the arc and moving off screens.

Thompson didn't make any highlight-reel plays on the other end, but he was similarly effective. He might be Team USA's most versatile defensive wing—he has the height and length to bother most bigs and is quick enough to stay in front of guards. That gives USA a ton of switching power, and the Tall Blacks were never able to punish Thompson when they caught him with what would typically be a mismatch.


Rest of Team: B+

James Harden easily could have been listed above, as he had a very strong game scoring the ball. He got into the lane for a couple of big dunks and drew fouls at his typical rate.

James Harden dunks on New Zealand player

— gifdsports (@gifdsports) September 2, 2014

Rudy Gay also deserves a lot of credit for his play against New Zealand. Gay has always been criticized for his inefficient, ball-stopping brand of scoring, but he's brought none of that to Team USA. Gay took just one shot outside of garbage time (he finished with four) and made an impact in every other way. He rebounded, moved the ball well and played strong, physical defense. It can't be easy to totally change a style of play, but Gay has done it.

Really, everyone played well today, which is about what you'd expect in a 27-point blowout. There were some defensive breakdowns, but that can be attributed more to some truly great New Zealand passing than to a lack of effort or communication from Team USA.


Coming Up Next

Team USA's next contest comes against the Dominican Republic on Wednesday, Sept. 3. The game tips off at 3:30 p.m. ET.