Following Team USA's 98-45 thrashing of Japan in Thursday's pool-play game at the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup, the basketball gods have spoken: "Get them to the Greek."
Reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and Greece now await the Americans in Saturday's highly anticipated second-round collision.
Much like the Americans, Antetokounmpo is coming off his best game of the tournament. After a few uneven performances, the do-it-all superstar helped Greece outlast New Zealand with 24 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
"He's going to come out to kill us, there's no question," Team USA center and Antetokounmpo's Milwaukee Bucks teammate Brook Lopez told reporters. "He's going to want to tear our heads off. I wouldn't expect anything otherwise."
This clash could be one for the history books, so we'll provide all the need-to-know particulars below, before diving deeper into the matchup.
Team USA vs. Greece
When: Saturday, Sept. 7 at 8:30 p.m. local time (8:30 a.m. ET)
Where: Shenzhen Bay Sports Center in Shenzhen, China
Live Stream: ESPN+
Latest Line: USA -10, per OddsChecker
This is a challenge unlike any Team USA has faced in recent history.
It's not that Greece is some unbeatable Goliath—it barely survived Thursday's had-to-have-it game against New Zealand—but Antetokounmpo's presence looms large over this matchup.
You'd have to go back to perhaps 1988, before NBA players participated in the World Cup or Olympics, to find a major international tournament in which Team USA didn't roster the event's brightest star. Usually, the Americans boast several players better than everyone else.
But that isn't close to the case this time around.
With so many Americans skipping the event, three-time All-Star Kemba Walker stands as Team USA's top talent. The 29-year-old is good, but if we're talking NBA stars, he isn't great. Since ESPN.com unveiled the real plus-minus metric in 2013-14, Walker hasn't finished higher than 21st in the all-encompassing statistic (2017-18).
Three players suiting up for someone else in the second round finished higher than 21st just last season: France's Rudy Gobert (16th), Serbia's Nikola Jokic (fifth) and Antetokounmpo (fourth).
Dubbed the Greek Freak, the 24-year-old sports impossibly long limbs and unfair athleticism for someone his size (6'11", 242 lbs). He's never much more than a dribble and Eurostep away from posterizing a defender, and his skill set is so diverse that he's spent at least six percent of his career floor time at all five positions.
"Giannis is pretty special," Team USA coach Gregg Popovich said. "When they play for their countries, we like to say that [NBA players] become superheroes."
The frightening thing with Antetokounmpo is he didn't have to go overseas to seem superheroic.
He just powered the Bucks to their most wins since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson were on the roster. Antetokounmpo also joined those Hall of Famers plus Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor as the only players to ever average 27 points, 12 rebounds and five assists.
Still, two things are working in Team USA's favor.
First, FIBA Giannis isn't NBA Giannis—not by production, not even by usage. You might assume Greece would force-feed him touches, but you'd be wrong. In fact, he didn't even lead the team in points (15.7 per game, second), shots (8.7, third) or minutes (25.0, tied for second) during pool play.
Second, Team USA still enjoys a massive advantage in depth.
Greece only has one other NBA player on the roster, and it's Giannis' older brother Thanasis, a 27-year-old with two career NBA games under his belt. Team USA, meanwhile, has nothing but NBA players, and while Walker and Khris Middleton were its only 2018-19 All-Stars, players like Donovan Mitchell, Derrick White, Myles Turner, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown could all be All-Stars in the future.
Maybe Antetokounmpo is so good he can mitigate Team USA's strength-in-numbers edge. Maybe the Americans' flaws that surfaced in the near-loss to Turkey (or the exhibition loss to Australia) doom this team to its first World Cup or Olympics defeat since 2006.
More than likely, though, if Team USA stumbles in this tournament, it will occur against stiffer competition ahead.