Ladies and gentlemen, the 2023 FIBA World Cup is upon us!
After five exhibition games and a solid six days of rest, Tyrese Haliburton and Team USA are finally back in action, and this time it really counts, because after playing five exhibition games to feel each other out and get used to playing with each other, the FIBA World Cup has officially started for real and their first obstacle is New Zealand in a group stage game. Fortunately for Team USA, this is a shorthanded New Zealand team, as Steven Adams is still out due to a knee injury, thus leaving New Zealand with zero NBA players on the roster. At the same time, Team USA is of course a team with multiple All-Stars across the board. This resulted in Team USA getting a -35.5 spread on paper, and not many expected this game to go down to the wire. New Zealand’s roster is definitely not short of scoring, however, a team beating this USA team is probably not going to do it by going shot for shot with them, as the USA team is comically loaded with scorers, especially in the starting lineup. Rather, as we saw against Germany, it would be with good defense and steady offense.
For Tyrese Haliburton, this game was also special. After averaging a respectable 8.4 points and 7.4 assists in the five exhibition games (all wins), Haliburton was looking to further prove himself to Steve Kerr and the rest of the USA coaching staff that he belongs in the starting lineup for the World Cup games, as the offense immediately saw a change in pace and efficiency as soon as he stepped on the court.
Unfortunately, if you were looking for a lineup change, it would not be in the first game, as Steve Kerr stuck with the same old lineup from the exhibition games to start off against New Zealand, with Haliburton on the bench and a real lack of playmaking on the court to start off the game.
This was quite puzzling to me, as Team USA clearly had something with Haliburton, Reaves, and Banchero on the court and the chemistry those guys brought to the table was undeniable. However, Steve Kerr must not have thought enough to start one of them, as the same old lineup would be brought out to kick off tournament play. I wasn’t the only one surprised, as Haliburt
That being said, how did Tyrese Haliburton fare in his first official game of FIBA tournament play?
Well, we shall see, and we shall also see if Steve Kerr sticking to his gut and keeping No. 4 off the bench was a smart move or a move that would come back to bite him later on.