USA Senior Men Out-Battle Brazil 90-86
• Box Score (PDF)
Nobody expected it to be easy every night for the USA Basketball Men's Senior National Team (3-0) and it certainly wasn't Tuesday.
After posting blowouts in its first two exhibition games, the U.S. received a full-fledged challenge from Brazil Tuesday night in its final game of China Basketball Challenge in Guangzhou, China. The USA watched a double digit first half lead disappear and, in the end, after being tested the entire second half by the Brazilians, the Americans managed enough big plays to pull out a 90-86 win, its third in six days.
Atlanta Hawks guard Joe Johnson and Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James made the difference for the U.S. in the win. Johnson made a huge steal on the defensive end, while James' play came on the offensive end.
With the game's final seconds ticking off the clock and the USA clinging to an 89-86 lead, Johnson came up with the game clinching steal after deflecting the dribble from Brazil guard Marcelo Machado who was looking for a game tying 3-pointer. Diving to the ground to come up with the ball after deflecting it away from Machado, Johnson was fouled with four seconds remaining. Making the first of two free throws to seal the victory, the USA had persevered and survived a very real test.
"I just tried to stay in front of my man and make it as difficult as possible for him," said Johnson. "I had my hand in low and he tried to crossover and I just hit it and then dove for the ball and came up with it."
Just prior to Johnson's defensive play of the game, James made an offensive one. With the U.S. up by a single point and the game under a minute to go, James worked his way down along the baseline and powered his way inside for a basket that pushed the USA lead to three, 89-86, with 34 seconds left.
"I saw the big man close out on me strong and I wanted to just try to be aggressive and not to settle for the jump shot and I was able to get around him. One of their guards stepped up and I tried to slide around him and make a tough shot," recalled James.
After pushing out to a 52-38 lead at halftime, the USA's's shooting suddenly went very, very cold. Brazil opened the third quarter by pouring in 16 consecutive points to take the lead 54-52.
Gilbert Arenas (Washington Wizards) hit a jumper with 4:42 left in the quarter to put an end to the Brazilian run and the USA's scoring drought and from there the U.S. and Brazil battled until the game's final seconds.
With time about to expire in the third quarter, Kirk Hinrich (Chicago Bulls) hit a huge three to give the American contingent a 70-69 advantage. With 8:50 to play in the third quarter, U.S. guard Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat) was called for his fourth foul, then he was given a technical for arguing the call which resulted in his fouling out of the game.
Brazil continued to remain in the mix and with 4:48 to play in fact owned an 82-79 lead.
Brad Miller (Sacramento Kings) made a pair of free throws to close the gap to 82-81 with 4:09 left, and Hinrich made two free throws after Brazil's Guilherme Giovanonni was whistled for an intentional foul. Giovanonni was called for a technical, and after Elton Brand (Los Angeles Clippers) made one-of-two free throws and Johnson also made one- of-two free throws, the USA's lead had expanded to 85-82 with 2:37 left.
With 2:23 on the clock and the game still up for grabs, Hinrich again made two free throws to increase the U.S. lead to 87-82. But Brazil refused to fold and following baskets by Jose Estevan and Marcelo Huertas, Brazil had climbed back within a single point, 87-86 with 1:01 to play.
Following the James basket that pushed the U.S. advantage to three, Brazil's Wellington Dos Santos drove strong to the basket only to have his shot solidly blocked by Brand, and Chris Paul (New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets) came up with the ball and was fouled with 20 seconds remaining.
Paul missed on both charity tries leaving the door open for Brazil and Machado took the ball up court and was looking for game tying three when Johnson made his steal.
Carmelo Anthony (Denver Nuggets), who had 16 points in just 11:33 of action in the first half, gave the USA coaching staff and players a scare when he crashed into the bench and had to be assisted to the locker room with 2:21 to play in the second quarter. Anthony's injury was announced as a hyper extended right knee and he did not return to action. He is listed day-to-day and will be reassessed Wednesday.
Hinrich finished with 14 points, Johnson added 12 more, while James finished with 11 points to cap off the USA scoring.
Brazil's effort was paced by Phoenix Suns guard Leonardo Barbosa and Alex Garcia who finished with 14 points each
Look at all the adversity that we faced," remarked USA mentor Mike Krzyzewski. "Carmelo gets hurt, Dwyane plays about, I don't know how many minutes, but he was out of the ball game. LeBron was having his worst offensive night. A little bit of chaos there, especially for a team that's only been together for a short period of time.
"But guys stepped up. Joe did. I thought Kirk Hinrich really stepped up. Our big guys, Elton and Brad Miller, also gave us some stability. But our guys made big plays down the end, they made winning plays and that was the story of the basketball game."
Assisting USA head coach Krzyzewski are Syracuse University (N.Y.) and Hall of Fame mentor Jim Boeheim, Phoenix Suns head mentor Mike D'Antoni and Portland Trail Blazers head coach Nate McMillan.
The USA's training now moves to Hong Kong where the team will train Aug. 9-11.
From Aug. 12-15 the USA will participate in the five-team World Basketball Challenge 2006 that will be held in Seoul, Korea, at the site of the 1988 Olympic Games basketball competition - Jamsil Gymnasium. The Challenge features national teams from the United States, Italy, Korea, Lithuania and Turkey.
The World Basketball Challenge 2006 officially gets underway Friday, Aug. 11, when Korea plays Turkey (6 p.m., all times local). On Saturday, Aug. 12, Korea will take on Lithuania (2 p.m.), while Italy and Turkey (4 p.m.) will clash in the evening's second game. The USA opens its play on Sunday, Aug. 13, against Lithuania (2 p.m.), and Korea versus Italy (4 p.m.) caps the day's schedule. The Challenge concludes Tuesday, Aug. 15, with Korea meeting the U.S. (3 p.m. local time). The U.S. squad is also scheduled to train in Seoul on Aug. 11, 12, 14, and 16.
The USA's visit to China and Korea mark the first time that a USA men's senior national basketball team comprised of NBA players has visited either country.
The United States will depart on Aug.17 for Sapporo, Japan, where it will play its preliminary round games of the 2006 FIBA World Championship for Men from Aug. 19-24.