It was extremely strange to see Kevin Durant booed so loudly and furiously during the Team USA player introductions in Chicago. But after that inital show of rage, KD faded into the background. This was a bit strange to see too, as Durant was always the focal point of the Thunder offense. But you could tell that Durant was relishing playing with such talented teammates. Kd didn't have to fight through double-teams, nor would he draw the toughest defensive assignment. But in a way, perhaps, it was fitting. Durant will certainly be able to take on secondary offensive and defensive roles when he gets to Golden State. Some might call that wimpy, since we all admire leaders. But you can see that this career trajectory will put less wear and tear on KD's body, and that's most important of all.
This was one of the uglier games that I've seen Team USA play in recent memory. Early on, Team USA really wanted to capitalize on their athletic advantage and hit some home run plays. But that led to some individualistic play. And nobody's shot was on, perhaps highlighted by Carmelo Anthony's 1 of 5 shooting mark in the first quarter. Meanwhile, the team first Venezuelans played a decent pace and space game. John Cox was 4 of 5 early and hit a couple of threes.
But it wasn't long before Team Usa buckled down. After Venezuela had edged ahead 12-10, Team Usa romped to a 36-18 halftime lead. The plays weren't flashy. Venezuela didn't allow any fast break points, as Team USA had only 4 at the half. And Team USA was only 2 of 18 from three. But Venezuela wasn't athletic enough to contest every mid-range shot the US took around a screen. Irving led all US scorers at the half with 11.
The second half saw Venezuela get a little spurt of scoring, and they pulled within 16 about 2-3 minutes in. Venezuela did a great job of controlling the pace and waiting for open shots. Defensively, Venezuela was physical and stayed in a man to man. But it was only a matter of time before Team USA showed off their superior athleticism in transition and inside. 12 of Team USA's third quarter points were in the paint.
With 6:45 to go in the fourth, DeAndre Jordan finally made a fast break jam. Frustrated from the dearth of highlight plays, the crowd erupted for their loudest cheer of the night. After a stolen ball led to easy venezuela points a minute later, the crowd was ready to erupt again. This time, a Klay Thompson transition three fit the bill.
The last big cheer for a highlight play came with about two minutes to go. Jimmy Butler managed to tap a fast break outlet pass off to a teammate down court. The teammate tapped it back for a Butler dunk, rousing the hometown fans. In the last few moments, Team USA was allowed to exhibit a few dunks.
The lineups from Coach K were what you would expect. Team USA would field a big at all times, and usually a stretch four like KD or Green.
One player's screen printed Venezuela jersey wasy messed up in front. That was kind of odd.