All three Utah Jazz players participating in the FIBA World Cup are undefeated with their respective teams. But the next round will be a much tougher challenge for all.
After a narrow escape against Turkey in Team USA’s second game of FIBA Basketball World Cup play, Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell and his teammates bounced back nicely in their following contest against Japan. The game never got closer than 0-0 as the American squad came out of the gates firing on all cylinders and never looked back. They would ultimately win the game by a count of 98-45.
It wasn’t an otherworldly performance from Mitchell, but it was a solid outing and certainly a good turnaround from his mistake-riddled performance versus Turkey. He finished the contest with 10 points on 50 percent shooting from the field while adding six assists. For what it’s worth, he was also an incredible, team-high plus-51 on the evening. Now how’s that for a positive impact?
In the three FIBA games for Team USA thus far, Mitchell has shown some very distinct things. In the first, he gave Jazz fans a look at an efficient performance, something they’ve been pining for. In the third, he showed that he can make plays for others effectively, another trait that many have hoped he could improve heading into his third season.
And in the second game? Well, he proved that he’s still young and still human. Mitchell has had such a rapid rise to acclaim that it’s easy to forget that he’s just 22 years old and yet has much to learn to enhance his craft. There will undoubtedly be bumps along the way as he continues his upwards trajectory, and it’s important to remember how far ahead he is of any expectations placed upon him when he was drafted.
All in all, Donovan has looked solid in FIBA play, so much so that Jazz fans should be highly encouraged and excited about what lies ahead for him in the 2019-20 season.
So despite a narrow victory over Turkey, Team USA remains undefeated in FIBA play at 3-0. The same can be said about the other Jazzmen – Joe Ingles and Rudy Gobert – and their respective squads.
Ingles’ Australia defeated, Canada, Senegal, then a tough Lithuania team in a hard-fought battle. Gobert’s France, meanwhile, triumphed over Germany, Jordan and the Dominican Republic. After struggling versus Germany, the Frenchman put up two dominating performances that has them looking like one of the more formidable squads in the mix this summer.
But as good as the collective Jazzman record of 9-0 looks as of right now, it’s about to get tested in a big way beginning on Saturday as we advance to the next round of FIBA action. The USA’s next battle will come against none other than reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and his Greek squad. Giannis will undoubtedly be a man on a mission as he looks to lead his national team to a victory over his fellow NBA peers on a vulnerable American squad.
From there, the daunting tasks will be far from over for Team USA as they’ll face Brazil, who is undefeated thus far in the tournament with impressive wins over the likes of New Zealand, Montenegro and, perhaps most surprisingly, Antetokounmpo’s Greece squad. They boast former NBA players Leandro Barbosa and Anderson Varejao, who turned back the clock in a big way in their win over Greece, as well as current Chicago Bull Cristiano Felicio.
Meanwhile, France and Australia find themselves in for tough challenges ahead as well. Gobert and Co. will pick up action on Saturday against Lithuania who nearly knocked off Australia on Thursday. Rudy has been impressive thus far in FIBA World Cup play, but he’ll have his hands full in a showdown against the likes of NBA bigs Jonas Valanciunas and Domantas Sabonis.
Australia, meanwhile, will probably have the easiest next game of any of the teams with Jazz players on them as they’ll take on the Dominican Republic. The Dominicans aren’t a bad team by any means, but they were fortunate to sneak past Germany and barely beat Jordan who was easily the most inferior team of their group.
From there, though, we’ll get our first battle of two Jazzmen going head to head in meaningful play as Joe Ingles and Rudy Gobert will face off when Australia plays France on Monday at 6:00 AM MT. This one will likely be a battle to remember as both teams are on a hot streak, both have significant NBA talent and both are among the elite forces in the tournament.
Of course, since the two are facing one another, it will be impossible for the Jazz-represented teams to emerge undefeated after the next round, though all three could still very well advance. It’s entirely possible that the inevitable loss of either France or Australia won’t be the only loss either. Lithuania will present a challenge to France and Team USA will have its hands full with both Greece and Brazil, especially if they play as they did against Turkey.
After that, assuming all three teams advance, they’ll find themselves in the elimination round which is where things really heat up. And there’s a great chance that Donovan Mitchell and Team USA will then find themselves playing either Rudy Gobert and France or Joe Ingles and Australia. The top team from Group K (USA’s group) will play the second team in Group L, which could very likely be France or Australia. If USA slips to the second spot, they’ll play the top team in Group L, which again will probably be one of those two aforementioned teams.
In other words, Jazz loyalties are soon to be tested to the brink. We know we’ll see Ingles vs. Gobert, will we see Mitchell vs. Ingles like we did in exhibition play? Or perhaps Mitchell vs. Gobert in a battle of the two biggest Jazz stars?
Time will tell, but one thing is certain, if Team USA – the favorite entering the tournament – is going to live up to their reputation and prove the doubters proclaiming their vulnerability wrong, they’ll have to play much more like they did against Japan and far less like they did against Turkey.
Sure, Japan’s mediocre talent level played an enormous role in Team USA shining so bright, but there’s also no question that they simply executed their best in that contest and made the wisest decisions. That execution will have to carry over and be combined with focus, confidence and perhaps some luck when they play the trio of Greece, Brazil and most likely either France or Australia in their next three games.
All three Jazzmen are 9-0 at the moment. And while that figure is inevitably about to change by Monday at the latest, ideally all three Utah Jazz studs will continue to light it up for their respective squads as the excitement of FIBA play continues.