Milwaukee Bucks: Team USA breezes by Czech Republic, wins 88-67

SHANGHAI, CH - SEPTEMBER 1: (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
SHANGHAI, CH - SEPTEMBER 1: (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Despite an early test, Team USA took care of business Sunday morning in their opening World Cup clash against the Czech Republic, and Milwaukee Bucks All-Star swingman Khris Middleton rebounded from a poor start.

Following a highly publicized run-up to the start of this year’s edition of the FIBA World Cup, Team USA. were keen on sending an early message now that the event has arrived.

They did precisely that Sunday morning as they rolled through the Czech Republic for a 88-67 win in Shanghai to take their first tilt in the group stage.

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In what is their first appearance ever at the FIBA World Cup, the Czech Republic tested the Americans early on by holding an early, albeit brief lead as Team USA struggled to find their shooting touch for stretches in the first quarter.

But upon retaking the lead at the 2:57 mark in the opening period, Team USA didn’t look back and built on their advantage up to double digits over time to give them a comfortable win once the final buzzer sounded.

From a Milwaukee Bucks perspective, both of their USA representatives, Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton, featured in extended stretches off the bench under head coach Gregg Popovich.

Starting with Middleton, the All-Star swingman was clearly uncomfortable in his early run and continued his shooting struggles from long distance just like he had through the majority of Team USA’s slate of exhibition games. Eventually, though, the 28-year-old’s fortunes turned around in the second half as he promptly buried a triple and converted a tough, spinning finish in the paint upon getting some late third quarter minutes.

Another three, as well as a brilliant full-court dish to Harrison Barnes, followed for Middleton and the former Aggie finished with eight points on 3-of-6 shooting from the field (2-for-4 from three), four rebounds, two assists, one steal and one turnover in over 15 and a half minutes of burn.

Switching over to Lopez, the seven-footer’s time on the floor was more limited compared to his Bucks teammate, but more than what he had been getting in Team USA’s run of friendlies. That was, in part, due to the early struggles starting big man Myles Turner endured in the first half.

Lopez generated a great sequence in the first half when he put down his only pair of points with a friendly jump hook in the post, and blocked and contested shots from opposing players at the rim to maintain the USA’s edge over the Czechs. The Stanford alum missed his two three-point tries in his closing fourth quarter minutes with the game well in hand at that point.

In the end, Lopez posted two points on 1-of-4 shooting from the field (0-for-2 from downtown), one rebound, one assist, and one block in close to nine and a half minutes.

With Team USA’s win, all national teams featuring Bucks players went 3-0 Sunday with Greece easily knocking off Montenegro and Turkey storming past Japan, thanks to Ersan Ilyasova‘s star performance.

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Next up for the Americans will be going against Ilyasova and Turkey Tuesday morning for a 7.30 a.m. tip off central time.