USA Men’s World Cup Team Clamps Down on Defense, Collects 89-57 Victory Over Host Greece
• Box Score (PDF)
The 2010 USA Men’s World Championship Team turned up its defensive pressure in the second half and ran away with an 87-59 victory over Greece on Wednesday night at OAKA Arena in Athens, Greece. Guard Eric Gordon (Los Angeles Clippers) came off the bench to lead the U.S. with 18 points while shooting 4-of-7 from 3-point range as the American men closed out its pre-FIBA World Championship exhibition schedule with a perfect 4-0 slate.
Also scoring in double digits in the win were Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder) with 15 points and seven boards, Player of the Game Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls) shot 6-of-7 from the field and scored 13, while Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves) checked in with a double-double of 10 points and a game-best 12 rebounds.
“We know it’s an exhibition game,” said USA and Duke University head coach Mike Krzyzewski. “Greece did not have its two big guys (Sofoklis Schortsanitas and Yiannis Bourousis) inside, but for us it was good to play another international game against a great country, a good atmosphere, and it just gives us more experience. We’re happy that we got a chance to play everyone and I think they played all their healthy players. The score is insignificant really because they didn’t have their complete team against us.”
“Well, I’m just making open shots,” said Gordon. “Our team was in great rhythm and I basically scored off transition baskets, just hitting threes and just hitting easy layups.”
Greece, which was playing without the services of two of its centers, Sofoklis ‘Baby Shaq’ Schorsanitas, who was injured during warm-ups, and Yiannis Bourousis, got on the board first, but the lead was short-lived. Rose hit a 3 at 7:52 and the USA never again trailed. Rose’s 3 was the start of a 16-4 USA run that ended with another 3, this one from Gordon, which put the U.S. up 16-6 with 4:05 still to go in the first period.
However, the U.S. had a hard time pulling away from the Greeks as the USA’s 22-14 lead at the end of the first quarter was expanded to just 10 points, 42-32, at halftime.
Greece edged back to within eight points, 45-37, three minutes into the second half. From there, the USA’s defense clamped down and slowly wore out the hosts. On the other end, Durant scored five consecutive points, followed by an Andre Igoudala (Philadelphia 76ers) dunk on a fast-break pass from Chauncey Billups (Denver Nuggets) and the red, white and blue was off and running. Including the 7-0 run fueled by Durant, the U.S. machine outpaced Greece 23-7 to close out the quarter with a commanding 68-44 lead.
“We went out with a bang,” said Rose. “We played well. At halftime, we just tried to come out, play aggressive and not let them back in, like we did Spain. That’s something we’ve been working on and it’s coming along.”
During the third-quarter assault, when the USA outscored Greece 26-12, the USA notched five steals, forced seven turnovers and dished out seven assists. Additionally, the U.S. shot an even 60.0 percent (9-15 FGs) from the field in the third quarter, while limiting Greece to just 36.4 percent (4-11 FGs).
“We were up 10 and we wanted to use that opportunity to practice playing with a lead,” said Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors). “We wanted to use our energy on defense to get some stops to make it easier on ourselves down the stretch.”
The USA edged Greece 19-15 in the fourth period.
“Obviously they didn’t have the big fellow (Schortsanitas) playing, he’s a tough match-up with anybody,” said Billups. “They weren’t the Greece that I’m sure we’ll see if we play them in Turkey. But at the same time, I’m sure they wanted to come out and win, playing on their home soil. We have a really competitive rivalry with that team as well, so they wanted to win. I thought we came out and play as hard as we could.”
Kostas Tsaartsaris hit 9-of-12 of his shots from the field and finished with a game-high 24 points for Greece.
Outrebounding Greece 44-22, the American defense forced 24 Greek turnovers and posted 18 steals.
The 2010 USA World Championship Team assistant coaches are Syracuse University’s Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim, Portland Trail Blazers head coach Nate McMillan and Toronto Raptors head mentor Jay Triano.
All four of the USA’s pre-World Championship friendlies were part of the new Global Community Cup, which will include all USA Basketball exhibition games played outside of formal international competitions. Along with the games, the Global Community Cup features a social responsibility element that will highlight USA Basketball’s commitment to giving back to communities in the U.S. and abroad.
The USA will travel tomorrow to Istanbul, Turkey, where the 2010 FIBA World Championship will tip-off on Aug. 28 versus Croatia.
The 2010 FIBA (International Basketball Federation) World Championship for Men is being held Aug. 28-Sept. 12 in Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir and Kayseri, Turkey. Twenty-four teams will compete in the 2010 FIBA World Championship for Men and those teams were divided into four preliminary round groups consisting of six teams each. The United States is joined in preliminary round Group B by Brazil, Croatia, Iran, Slovenia and Tunisia.
The U.S. opens the ‘10 Worlds on Aug. 28 against Croatia, a team it has never faced in World Championship play, but a squad the USA is 3-0 versus in Olympic action. Facing its second European team in as many days, the Americans on Aug. 29 will meet Slovenia, a team it defeated 114-95 in 2006 World Championship preliminary play in their only prior World Championship meeting. FIBA Americas Zone champion Brazil will challenge the U.S. on Aug. 29. The USA-Brazil World Championship series stands at 6-5 in favor of the United States with the two teams’ last meeting in the 1998 World Championship. Following a day off on Aug. 31, the USA resumes play Sept. 1 against Asia Zone champ Iran, a team it has not faced previously in World Championship play, then closes out preliminary play with a contest versus Tunisia on Sept. 2, another team that the Americans have not met in World Championship action.