LeBron James' 23 Points Helps Lead U.S. to 116-63 Win Over South Korea
• Box Score (PDF)
This was one of those games when the outcome was never really in question and the score didn't matter much either.
What was important to the USA coaching staff was that the USA Basketball Men's Senior National Team (5-0) finish off its pre-World Championship exhibition schedule in a way that would help keep the momentum it had already accumulated rolling as the team heads into preliminary play at the 2006 FIBA World Championship.
Behind a 40 point offensive explosion in the second quarter that was led by 12 points from LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers), the USA (5-0) finished off its pre-World Championship exhibition schedule in Seoul, Korea, with a 116-63 victory over host Korea Tuesday afternoon in the team's final game of its pre-World Championship training.
The win improved the U.S. exhibition mark to 5-0 and left the team with an average margin of victory in those five games of 34.2 points a game.
The USA's next game action comes Saturday, Aug. 19 when the U.S. team opens FIBA World Championship preliminary group play against Puerto Rico in Sapporo, Japan.
"I was pleased with a number of things. Obviously, we knew we were going to win. The talent differential was in our favor by far," explained Mike Krzyzewski, the USA and Duke University head coach. "But our guys played hard, they were diving for loose balls, they were unselfish, and they just had a good attitude. It looked like it hurt them when Korea scored against them, there was a pride on defense.
"I thought for a five-minute period Dwight Howard played as well as a center could play and Elton (Brand) did the same thing during his time. Sometimes it takes guys a little bit of time to round into shape and I think Elton is doing that and if Dwight gives us that he gives us something nobody else can give us so that was encouraging."
With James accounting for seven points, the U.S. led 22-13 lead after the first quarter. With 8:09 to go in the second quarter, the USA lead stood at 10, 30-20. With James and Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat) each scoring four points, the USA posted 12 consecutive points to expand its lead to 42-20.
By halftime the Americans had complete control 62-35.
"I saw it on the guys’ faces that we were going to be a little sluggish today. I was able to pick up my energy and the guys just followed me, and we took care of business," said James.
Outscoring Korea 11-3 to open the third quarter to take a 73-38 lead, the Americans kept up their defensive intensity and at the conclusion of the third quarter they enjoyed an 86-52 advantage.
The fourth continued to be all USA as the Americans thrilled the crowd with its hustle and an assortment of dunks that resulted in the U.S. outscoring Korea 19-2 over the final period's first six minutes.
All 13 USA finalists scored. James paced the offensive showing with 23 points on impressive 10-of-12 shooting, while adding six rebounds, four assists and four steals. Elton Brand (Los Angeles Clippers) was credited with 16 points and five boards, Wade also finished with 16 points, while Carmelo Anthony (Denver Nuggets) tallied 13 points.
Dwight Howard (Orlando Magic) finished with nine points, five rebounds and a pair of blocked shots in nine minutes of play, while Brad Miller (Sacramento Kings) finished with eight points. Chris Bosh (Toronto Raptors) equaled a team best with six rebounds and Chris Paul (New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets) was credited with four assists to also tie for a team best.
The U.S. made 65.7% of its shots for the afternoon, 46.7 from 3-point. The overmatched Koreans managed to shoot just 32.3% overall, only 20.3% from 3-point, while turning the ball over 21 times.
"I thought it was one of our best performances because we really played from start to finish all the way through, every guy that came in. Offensively we moved the ball, and everyone got an opportunity to touch it and score," stated Wade.
With the USA's training essentially reduced to three days of practice, has Coach K's team accomplished all that he had hope too during the team's training and its five exhibition games?
"Well number one we're healthy. We're still going to have to make a difficult selection to get to our roster to 12 players, but our guys have really grown together as a team. They're a good group of guys and no ego is bigger than the team. So, this has been a good trip so far and I think we're ready to take the next step."
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 continues in Seoul, with the USA finalists practicing Wednesday (Aug. 16) at Camp Casey, a U.S. military base outside of Seoul, as part of USA Basketball's Hoops For Troops program, presented by State Farm and in collaboration with the America Supports You program, a nationwide program launched by the U.S. Department of Defense.
The U.S. squad departs Aug. 17 for Sapporo, Japan, where it will play its preliminary rounds game of the 2006 FIBA World Championship from Aug. 19-24. The World Championship eighth-finals, quarterfinals, semifinals and finals are being held in Sataima, Japan, Aug. 26-Sept. 3.