Spain was unable to add its third victory in preparation for the World Cup against the United States (88-98) in the last match of the Spanish Basketball Federation’s Centennial Championship, which was held at the Martin Carpena stadium in Malaga. The team found a dose of what awaits them in the World Cups in Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines, from August 25 to September 10. Despite the good vibes in a very even match until the end, the team still has to pick up the pace to defend the title they won in China in 2019.
The first quarter was very tight, in an intense game from the start. Both teams wanted the meeting to be a speech of introduction before the World Cup. Neither team had the option of going far on the scoreboard in a very offensive game. Although Spain finished the first quarter ahead (28-26), the feeling was completely equal.
The same dynamic was maintained at the beginning of the second quarter. Until the Americans began to show more regularity in the two regions. Success on the outside shot, 66% in the first half, held them ahead in a period when defense was more prominent. Huge Jalen Branson, with 16 points and no shots missed, provided momentum for the Americans to take the lead. At the end of the second quarter, Willie missed a hit that would have closed the gap and two consecutive counterattacks, one by Anthony Edwards and the other by Austin Reeves, put the USA ahead by 10 points in the first half (45-55).
Alex Abrinz emerged at the start of the third quarter with seven straight points to put Spain within one. The match was friendly, but the team wanted to make their intentions known and they accelerated the pace of the match. A three-pointer from Núñez gave Ulm’s German keeper a standing ovation, being present in the starting line-up and earning him a place in the squad as best substitute, replacing Ricky Rubio. Spain improved in its defense and came to take the lead, but the United States woke up in the final minutes to end the third quarter with a one-point lead (72-73).
Steve Kerr’s men all walked out in the final quarter. The Americans didn’t want to let anything in and once again increased the distance on the scoreboard against Spain with several shooting errors. Edwards’ sinking in the quick break gave the USA an 11-point lead with two and a half minutes left on the clock. The team sought a comeback, but the individual quality of the Americans, led by Branson (23 points), ended up giving them the victory.
In Spain, the best were again Santi Aldama and Hernangomez, who were joined by the great Nunez who led the team in attack, and Abrinz. The team still has two more friendlies to prepare before traveling to Jakarta, where they will play group stage matches in the World Cup. Canada (August 16) and Dominican Republic (August 19) are the last two competitors to finish taking the necessary level of competition to defend their World Champions title.