After Close First Half, USA Pulls Away From Puerto Rico In Exhibition Win
New York, New York
• VIDEO: Curry No-Look Pass
• VIDEO: Thompson Buzzer Beater
An upstart Puerto Rico squad kept it interesting early against the USA Men’s National team Friday at Madison Square Garden, but the world's No. 1-ranked team soon found their rhythm and pulled away for an imposing 112-86 win.
Tied at 24 after the first quarter, the U.S. went on a tear in the second half by going on a 16-4 run with seven players scoring double figures by the final buzzer.
Leading the onslaught was Stephen Curry who was six for seven shooting for 20 points. Curry also had four assists; one of them particularly pretty in the form of a behind-the-back no-look bouncer to James Harden in the fourth quarter. Harden finished it off with a dunk to the roars of the sold out crowd.
“It was a good test for us to deal with a little bit of adversity and things not going our way the first half, and finally to be mentally focused in the second half and get the job done,” said Curry of the team’s performance. “Not every game’s going to be pretty when we get to Spain, so this was a good test for us and good experience for everybody on the roster, and just thankful we got the win and can look forward to our travel day.”
The one scare of the night came late in the game when Harden was nailed in the face by Puerto Rico’s Alexander Galindo while driving to the net, but he eventually shook it off.
Both Harden and USA national team vet Rudy Gay had 13 points each on the night, while forward Kenneth Faried continued to impress on both ends of the court with hang-on-the-rim dunks and sending-it-into-the-second-row blocks. Faried finished the night with 12 points on flawless 6-of-6 shooting, five rebounds and two blocked shots.
To the delight of the fans, Derrick Rose was back in action after resting most of the week, and had six points and four dishes coming off the bench in 13 minutes of play. Rose also looked impressive defensively, keeping the pressure on Puerto Rico’s backcourt.
“Derrick brings something that we don’t have as far as being able to push the ball so fast and get into the paint,” said Harden of Rose’s play. “He made a couple cross-court passes for open threes. He really looked phenomenal.”
Minnesota Timberwolves guard J.J. Barea was the high scorer for Puerto Rico with 16 points, followed by former NBA journeyman Carlos Arroyo with 15.
In the house to witness the team’s electric final send off were New York Knicks Carmelo Anthony, Tim Hardaway Jr. and J.R. Smith, as well as pro golfer on a hot streak Rory McIlroy and tennis champ Andy Murray in town for the U.S. Open.
Now comes the uncomfortable part in trimming the roster from 16 to 12 players. Coach Mike Krzyzewski said that he’ll huddle with managing director Jerry Colangelo and their staff tonight to make the difficult choices in determining just who will be on the charter tomorrow to Spain.
"It's a collective decision and Jerry puts the final stamp on it. We haven't had a chance to discuss the new input from tonight but I thought we got some really good performances," Krzyzewski said post game.
And while Krzyzewski wouldn’t elaborate as to his thought process for tonight’s selections, he called out Curry and Harden for emerging as team leaders over training camp.
“I think they’re unselfish and hard working,” said Krzyzewski. “They have each other’s backs. They don’t care who scores. They all want to win. And I think another unifying factor, and it helped being at West Point, is that they’re really proud to play for our country. They’re very proud to play for the United States.”
With tonight’s win, the U.S. improved to 3-0 in FIBA World Cup tune-ups. They’ll have a final friendly in Gran Canaria against Slovenia on Aug. 26 (2 p.m. ET, ESPN2) before their first official World Cup game on Aug. 30 against Finland.
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