Donovan Mitchell shoots a jumper during the first half of an exhibition game against Spain on Aug. 16, 2019 in Anaheim, California.
Khris Middleton of the Milwaukee Bucks made his statement early for the U.S. men’s basketball team Friday night.
He hit his first four shots, including two 3-pointers, helping Team USA, ranked No. 1 in the world, win its exhibition showdown against No. 2-ranked Spain at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.
Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz scored a team-high 13 points and Middleton added 12 in the 90-81 victory. Boston Celtics teammates Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker each scored 11.
Friday’s game came just one day before the 12-player roster for the upcoming FIBA World Cup is expected to be finalized.
It was the final U.S. appearance for the team before heading to Australia for three more exhibition games and a training camp leading into the World Cup. The U.S. is the two-time defending World Cup champion, as well as three-time defending Olympic champion. The squad begins its World Cup title defense on Sept. 1 against the Czech Republic in Shanghai, China, followed by games against Turkey and Japan.
Middleton’s play Friday and in training camp has continued a strong year that began with an NBA All-Star season with the Bucks. He was selected as an All-Star for the first time and his career bests included 179 3-pointers.
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A 6-foot-8 forward who played collegiately at Texas A&M, Middleton could meet up with Bucks teammate and NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo in the World Cup. The 6-foot-11 Antetokounmpo is playing for Greece, his native country.
Marc Gasol of the Toronto Raptors scored a game-high 19 points for Spain.
P.J. Tucker of the Houston Rockets did not play Friday and withdrew from the team due to an ankle injury. Marcus Smart, a guard for the Boston Celtics, also did not play due to a calf injury, but said on the NBA TV broadcast that he expects to be ready to play in the World Cup. The other 12 players did see game action Friday.
The final two cuts on the roster are expected to be made Saturday and the 12-man roster will be announced, although the official roster does need to be turned in until Aug. 29.
The U.S. begins a two-game exhibition series against Australia next Thursday in Melbourne, Australia.
Paul D. Bowker has been writing about Olympic sports since 1996, when he was an assistant bureau chief in Atlanta. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.