Kevin Durant Leads the Way as Team USA Cruises to 113-59 Victory Against the Dominican RepublicKevin Durant scored 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as Team USA defeated the Dominican Republic 113-59 in the first of five exhibition games that Team USA will play prior to the London Olympics. The Dominican Republic squad features two NBA players--two-time All-Star Al Horford and Francisco Garcia--and is led by University of Kentucky Coach John Calipari but, after a sluggish start, Team USA ran away with the game both literally and figuratively: Team USA only has one legit center on the roster (Tyson Chandler) but is loaded with speed, quickness and versatility. As Team USA Managing Director Jerry Colangelo said during an in-game interview on ESPN, "Quickness and speed--on any level--wins over size." Team USA used that quickness and speed to good effect, forcing the Dominican Republic to commit 27 turnovers.
Team USA's starting lineup consisted of Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler. As I expected, Durant came off of the bench even though he led Team USA in scoring during the 2010 FIBA World Championship. Team USA shot just 1-6 from the field to start the game, enabling the Dominican Republic to briefly take a 4-2 lead, but Team USA went on an 11-0 run and never looked back after Team USA Coach Mike Krzyzewski brought Durant in for Chandler; that "small" lineup--with no true center but tremendous quickness at all five positions--pressed the Dominican Republic all over the court. Team USA led 50-27 by halftime, outscoring the Dominican Republic 20-5 in points off of turnovers. Durant scored 21 points in the first half, nailing five of his six shots from behind the FIBA arc, which is nearly two feet closer to the hoop than the NBA three point line.
With the outcome of the game never in doubt, Coach Krzyzewski had the luxury of limiting the minutes of veteran Olympians like Bryant and James, giving other players the opportunity to get on the court. Anthony Davis, a last minute replacement for the injured Blake Griffin (who will miss the Olympics due to a torn meniscus), made his Team USA debut in the fourth quarter; Davis scored his first national team basket after nicely executing a screen/roll play with Deron Williams and then Davis added a putback plus a four point play after being fouled while sinking a three pointer.
The Dominican Republic, which narrowly missed qualifying for the Olympics, obviously does not represent a serious challenge for this talent laden Team USA squad but this was still a good way for Team USA to start the pre-Olympic exhibition tour; Team USA had an opportunity to work on the pressure defensive scheme that will be a key element for their success, new team members James Harden and Anthony Davis got their first taste of FIBA play and no one else got hurt.
posted by David Friedman @ 2:31 PM