Paolo Banchero said the way Team USA was able to buck a slow start to rout New Zealand in its opening assignment is proof of its capability to compete for the Fiba World Cup title.
“It shows the talent we got from top to bottom,” Banchero said after his integral role in coming off the bench was among the reasons why the Americans got a 99-72 win on Saturday at Mall of Asia Arena despite trailing by 10 early in the game.
“Obviously, we don’t want to come out and start flat, but this being the first game, with a lot of travel, a lot of basketball being played, it’s not a surprise that it did happen, and we picked it up and finished strong,” added the NBA Rookie of the Year with the Orlando Magic.
Banchero finished with 21 points, emerging as Team USA’s top scorer, with four blocks in a show of offensive efficiency and defensive brilliance at the expense of the Tall Blacks.
It was a show that impressed most of the 11,000 people, some probably got to see Banchero play for the first time given the Orlando Magic’s lack of success and popularity in this part of the world.
“Paolo came off the bench and was amazing at knocking down threes, also the physicality and blocking shots,” Team USA coach Steve Kerr said.
The cousin of PBA guard Chris Banchero provided the impact immediately after subbing in for Jaren Jackson Jr. with the US behind 14-4, over five minutes into the game.
Tyrese Haliburton and fan favorite Austin Reaves also provided some spark in the Americans’ turnaround to begin its Manila stint on a bright note, albeit with plenty of things still needed to fix.
“I think me and a couple other guys who come off the bench, we pride ourselves in coming in and wanting to push the pace. And for the starting five, we got to pick it up,” he said.
“So I think we were able to do that, [got to close their lead] and [we got] into halftime with the lead,” added Banchero.
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