Team USA’s Anthony Edwards and Jordan’s Rondae Hollis-Jefferson added some spice to a what otherwise would have been a low-drama game, staging an American playground-style duel that isn’t normally seen at the FIBA World Cup.
The two shooting guards went back-and-forth racking up points and giving the crowd at Mall of Asia Arena something to pay attention to besides the score as Team USA won 110-62 on Wednesday to finish pool play 3-0.
The U.S. moves on to the World Cup’s second round and will play Montenegro, which went 2-1 to advance out of its group, on Friday.
Edwards seemed to delight in the meeting with Hollis-Jefferson, the former NBA player who came in as the event’s second-leading scorer and one of the happy stories of the first week. He matched up defensively with him and clearly had great bounce and energy.
The Minnesota Timberwolves star threw in several dunks, three 3-pointers and even a behind-the-back pass. Edwards finished with 22 points in 19 minutes and, illustrating just how much he was into the game, also had eight rebounds and four assists.
Edwards also fouled Hollis-Jefferson twice, which is something the 28-year-old has become an expert at while playing overseas the past two seasons. After drawing 15 fouls in a 39-point showing against New Zealand on Monday, Hollis-Jefferson drove, twisted and baited the U.S. into fouling him eight times in the first half alone.
Hollis-Jefferson finished with 20 points and 7 rebounds, though he was slowed after spraining his left ankle on a drive to the basket in the first half.
The matchup with Edwards was generally good natured — though there was a little talking between plays — as the two guarded each other for much of the time they were in the game together.
In a moment that sort of summed up the show, Edwards scored on back-to-back breakaways during the third quarter. On the first, Jordan’s Amin Abu Hawwas tried to get in Edwards’ way and forced him to abandon a highlight dunk attempt and settle for a layup. Edwards gave him a sideways look for ruining the chance.
Seconds later, after a Jordan turnover, Edwards had the ball on a break again. This time Abu Hawwas slowed down behind Edwards as he threw down a windmill dunk to the delight of the crowd.
Team USA coach Steve Kerr had seen enough late in the third, calling timeout to take out his starters. Edwards said farewell by tossing in a 35-footer that didn’t count.
The most important thing that happened for the Americans in the game was a starting lineup change, Kerr’s first of the last month. He put Josh Hart, who played strongly in the win over Greece on Monday, in for Brandon Ingram.
The move was made for Ingram’s benefit as he was struggling acting mostly as a spot-up shooter. With the second unit, he was able to play with the ball more in his hands as he’s used to with the New Orleans Pelicans.
Ingram immediately looked more comfortable as a playmaker and had his best game in Manila, racking up five assists with seven points in 15 minutes.
Jaren Jackson Jr. also had a strong game with 12 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks.