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Friday, December 19, 2014         

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Americans admire haka, then crush New Zealand

By Associated Press

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BILBAO, Spain >> American players paused from their warmups to stand and face their New Zealand opponents as they performed the haka, their traditional war dance challenge.

The U.S. response wasn't nearly as interesting. Just pound the ball inside and outmuscle an overmatched opponent. 

Anthony Davis had 21 points and nine rebounds, Kenneth Faried added 15 and 11 boards and the U.S. remained unbeaten at the Basketball World Cup by routing winless New Zealand 98-71 on Tuesday. 

James Harden scored 13 points for the Americans, who will play two more games in Bilbao before moving on to Barcelona for the round of 16. They face the Dominican Republic on Wednesday before wrapping up Group C play on Thursday against Ukraine.

"It was a good, solid performance," U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "I thought the intensity was excellent."   

Two nights after having to rally from a halftime deficit and pull away in the fourth quarter for a 98-77 victory over Turkey, the U.S. led this one wire to wire. The game was close only for a little more than a quarter.

The Tall Blacks' best work was before the game with their haka. Krzyzewski said U.S. players were aware it would be part of the pregame and they lined up to face midcourt as the New Zealand players got into their formation. 

"We actually were going to shake hands with them afterwards because we knew that that was a really neat thing to do and it's part of their tradition, and we admire that," Krzyzewski said.

Fans enjoyed it, then were largely quiet throughout the first half as the bigger U.S. team imposed its will, not needing the kind of highlight plays fans expect of the NBA stars. 

Brian Mahoney, Associated Press






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