Team USA had absolutely no problem in dispatching Brazil in the United Center tonight. It was obvious from the outset that Brazil would be dumping the ball in the post to Nene and Splitter, and that they were going to be getting their fair share of points. Still, Coach K's squad counteracted Brazil's bigs with two methods. The first was power, when they'd slot Kenneth Faried at power forward and try to muscle Brazil out of the post. The second was more of a flex lineup, featuring Rudy Gay at power forward and lots of fouling in the paint. The first method arguably saw more success, though it would be hard to complain about either.
Still, Team USA's counter to Brazil's post game wasn't the main factor in this win. Turnovers would turn out to be their main downfall. Team USA would exude various forms of full-court pressure throughout the game, at one point pulling three straight steals behind the half-court line. (Derrick Rose would later cite this as the point that Team USA took control.) The helter-skelter nature of the game was incredibly entertaining, and led to lots of big men on both sides dribbling around the perimeter.
Individually, Derrick Rose's performance was easily under the most scrutiny. This game basically functioned as a preview of his 2014-2015 comeback, and fans expected nothing less than greatness. Greatness is what they got, at least for a short amount of time. A 2 of 5 performance will amaze no one, but you never really got the impression that he was struggling. That's because of Rose's big moment at the end of the second half, when he was re-inserted for a few seconds and managed to hit a buzzer-beating floater after running the length of the court. Still, his defense wasn't perfect, as he allowed the quicker Marcelo Huertas to sneak in a few buckets.
Speaking of defense, Coach K was quick to praise Rose and Irving for their job on Huertas in the post-game press conference. Huertas is an experienced player that doesn't force a lot, but his 5 turnovers speak for themselves. Coach K was also quick to praise the play of Mason Plumlee, joking that "he shouldn't even be here". Plumlee would finish with 9 points on perfect shooting, along with 3 steals. In terms of the negatives, Coach K mentioned a 0-8 stretch during the second quarter that involved a lot of jump shooting.
The second quarter wasn't the most dangerous stretch, though. That probably came during the last minute of the third, when Brazil managed to pull within 5 on a pair of Barbosa free throws. It was at that point that Coach K expertly called timeout and drew up a play for Kyrie Irving going towards the rim. He was able to get a first step and extend the lead to 7. On the other end, a bad box out led to a Alex Garcia tip-in, and Team USA headed into the fourth only up 5.
That mess wasn't to last long, though. Brazil lost their first possession on a wild pass, and Klay Thompson managed to bomb a long catch and shoot three from the top of the key. It was a shot that I had personally seen him work on quite a bit in yesterday's practice, so it was cool to see that work pay off. From then on, a few amazing plays from Anthony Davis pushed Team USA further ahead, and they wouldn't look back.
- To the casual observer, it might have appeared that Coach K directly responded to the crowd's request to re-insert Derrick Rose during the fourth. Krzyzewski vehemently denied listening to them in the post-game presser, stating that Derrick Rose needed to learn to play tired.
- Derrick Rose is not a fan of the FIBA ball. "It's lighter for one," he said. "And once you get sweat on i, it's pretty much overwith. You've just gotta learn how to play with it."
- Rudy Gay hadn't played 5 on 5 basketball this Summer until practice started in Chicago on Thursday. He finished with 5 points on 1 of 3 shooting.
- Anthony Davis is amazing. He wins because his athleticism is so unfair, and it's a marvel to watch.
- Coach K gave huge props to Brazil's Coach, Ruben Magna. "In the 9 years that I've been fortunate to be the coach of the national team, there's no coach I admire more than Ruben, and the classiness with which his team plays."
- I'm not sure how much I like seeing Parsons play at the three. This game emphasized ball movement, and it was obvious that Team USA lacked an off-the-dribble presence when Parsons was there. Still, it did give James Harden a serious opportunity to show his stuff. Seriously, that dude can create points out of the most hopeless possessions.
- For all intents and purposes, Brazil cleaned up in the post. They grabbed 8 more defensive rebounds, and three of their five rotation big men scored double-digits. Their only problem was
- Rafael Hettsheimeir isn't that amazing of a player, but he really abused Team USA's defense by taking them out to the perimeter. This could be a serious concern when playing Spain, especially considering the jumpshooting abilities of the Gasols and Mr. Serge Ibaka.
Next Game: Versus the Dominican Republic, August 20th, 6 PM Central Standard Time.