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The United States had its hands full with Spain in a one-point game after three quarters, but the Americans outscored the host country 28-19 in the fourth quarter for a 98-88 victory on Sunday in Málaga. 

Here are a few takeaways from the United States win. 

Jalen Brunson was efficient, controlled the game

Brunson has started right where he left off after his breakout NBA season. The 26-year-old led the United States with 22 points on 9-of-9 from the floor, with 16 of those coming in the first half, not to mention five assists. 

Brunson dictated the point guard matchup, and even when Spain attempted to adjust how they defended him, he was sensational in maneuvering his way through the defense and taking what it gave him. The U.S. pulled away in the second quarter to take a 10-point lead into halftime, and the biggest reason was Brunson. He has truly ascended as one of the best guards in the NBA.

Anthony Edwards delivers in closing time 

When Alberto Díaz delivered a 3 to beat the buzzer and cap off the third quarter, cutting the USA lead to 70-69, it felt like Spain had recaptured the momentum in front of a capacity crowd. 

In closing time, though, Edwards delivered the daggers. 

With just over three minutes left in the game, Edwards glided through two defenders, drove the left baseline and knocked down a nasty reverse lay-in to extend the lead to 92-84. 

Moments later, he came up with the sequence of the game in my opinion. 

A rejection on a 3 followed by a runout slam served as the punctuation point for a USA victory, dashing any remaining hopes the hosts may have had. 

Edwards followed up his team-high 15 points in Saturday’s win over Slovenia with a 9-point, 3-steal performance on Sunday. It wasn’t his best all-around game, but the impact that he had in the game’s final moments serves as a really encouraging takeaway for the United States going forward. 

USA took on physicality challenge, closed with defense

Jaren Jackson Jr., the NBA Defensive Player of the Year this past season, imposed his will against Willy Hernangomez and the Spaniards. JJJ standout finished with 14 points, five rebounds and three blocks in the win, serving as the anchor for the Americans defensively. 

With Jackson charging the interior, the length of Mikal Bridges helped the United States defensively as well. Bridges serves as the Swiss Army Knife for this team, and playing alongside his former Villanova teammates in Brunson and Josh Hart certainly doesn’t hurt either. 

Improvement from 3 offers positive sign for what’s ahead

The United States entered Sunday’s game having shot just 25% combined in its first two exhibition games in this showcase. The matchup against Spain offered quite the opposite result, as the Americans started 5-for-6 from downtown and were 9-for-15 at one point in the win.

Cam Johnson and Austin Reaves both provided a spark off the bench from downtown, combining for 20 points in the victory. Bridges and Brandon Ingram contributed from deep as well. 

If the Americans didn’t find their mojo from beyond the arc, Sunday’s result could have easily gone the other way. 

What’s next: 

Team USA will next travel to Abu Dhabi to complete its showcase with a matchup against Greece on Friday (Noon ET, FS1) before taking on Germany on Sunday (Noon ET, FOX). 

The Americans’ FIBA World Cup schedule starts on Aug. 26 in the Philippines, where the U.S. will take on New Zealand in first-round action.

John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers the sport in a variety of capacities, from calling games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to providing commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @John_Fanta.


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