SHANGHAI – The first big celebratory reaction from the U.S. bench in this World Cup came just a couple of minutes after tipoff, when the Indiana Pacers' Myles Turner blocked a shot at the rim.
The tone was set.
There is an emphasis on defense with this U.S. team, and it was evident from the outset of its Group E opener Sunday. Donovan Mitchell scored 16 points to lead a balanced scoring night, and the Americans steadily pulled away to beat the Czech Republic 88-67 to begin their quest for a third consecutive World Cup title.
“That's got to be our calling card,” U.S. coach Gregg Popovich said. “We're going to try to execute better and better as time goes on, but defensively we've got to put our money there. It's what we have to be about to have an opportunity.”
Harrison Barnes had 14 points, Kemba Walker scored 13 and Jayson Tatum finished with 10 for the Americans. Turner had seven rebounds and a pair of blocked shots.
“As long as we win, that's all that matters,” Tatum said.
Tomas Satoransky, the former Washington Wizards forward who was traded to Chicago over the summer, led the Czechs with 17 points.
While the Americans' 78-game winning streak in international games with NBA players ended last month with a loss at Australia, their winning streak in major tournaments was extended to 54 games.
“We did a lot of good things,” Mitchell said. “We guarded it well. We've got a lot of things we can definitely work on, and I think this is a good start to the tournament.”
GREECE 85, MONTENEGRO 60: In Shanghai, Giannis Antetokounmpo had 10 points and eight rebounds in only 16 minutes for Greece. Nikola Vucevic led Montenegro with 12 points.
AUSTRALIA 108, CANADA 92: At Dongguan, Matthew Dellavedova scored 24 points and the Australians closed the game with a 28-6 run. Khem Birch scored 18 for Canada.
FRANCE 78, GERMANY 74: At Shenzhen, France opened the game on a 21-4 run and held on to win, paced by Evan Fournier's 26 points. For Germany, Johannes Voigtmann had 25 points.
LITHUANIA 101, SENEGAL 47: At Dongguan, Lithuania had seven players in double figures and held Senegal to 29% shooting. Domantas Sabonis, Jonas Valanciunas and Mantas Kalnietis each had 13 points.
TURKEY 86, JAPAN 67: At Shanghai, Turkey got 17 points apiece from Ersan Ilyasova and Melih Mahmutoglu. For Japan, Rui Hachimura scored 15 points.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC 80, JORDAN 76: At Shenzhen, Victor Liz scored 15 points to lead the Dominican Republic. Jordan's Ahmad Al Dwairi had 34 points and 10 rebounds.
BRAZIL 102, NEW ZEALAND 94: At Nanjing, Brazil was led by Leandro Barbosa's 22 points. Corey Webster scored 19 for New Zealand.