USA Basketball Men's National Team Battles Brazil For 80-69 Win
With President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden among the sellout crowd of 20,390 fans at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., the 2012 USA Basketball Men’s National Team (2-0) battled Brazil for nearly all 40 minutes before capturing an 80-69 win.
Thirty points from LeBron James (Miami Heat) led the USA, which was plagued by 38.5% shooting in the first half, including 1-of-12 from 3-point. Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder) added 11 points, and Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers) scored 10.
Also in attendance were the First Lady, daughter Sasha, Vice President Joe Biden and his granddaughter.
“We did not have defensive intensity (early in the game); if this team doesn't have that, we're going to get scored on,” said Mike Krzyzewski, USA and Duke University head coach. “I mean 27 points in (the first) ten minutes, and 42 in (the final) 30. It's a huge difference. We're going to have to -- if we win the gold medal, it will be because of how well we play defensively. To win this game like that I think is a good learning experience for our group.”
Brazil came out red-hot, shooting 62.5% from the field in the first quarter as the USA struggled to connect, making just 7-of-20 field goals and none of its five 3-point attempts. By the end of the first quarter, the South Americans had taken a 10-point, 27-17 lead.
The USA forced 12 of its eventual 23 turnovers in the second quarter and held Brazil to just five points in the period. Trailing 29-21 at 7:54, James scored two points that launched a 13-0 run, and the USA took its first lead, 30-29, at 3:13 when Tyson Chandler (New York Knicks) stole the ball and slammed it home. While Brazil managed one 3-pointer in the last few minutes, the USA added seven more to take a 37-32 lead into the halftime locker room.
Brazil had an answer for nearly every U.S. score in the third quarter, but the USA was able to improve its advantage by three points in the period to build a 59-51 at the end of the stanza.
Brazil, which never quit fighting, came as close as six points in the fourth quarter, 65-59 at 6:00, but from there James took over. After a made free throw by Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks) and two from Deron Williams (Brooklyn Nets), James scored the USA’s last seven points to hold Brazil at bay, including a 3-pointer and a steal converted into another 3-pointer. James’ two free throws at 31.3 seconds remaining brought the game to its final score of 80-69 and put Brazil away for good.
"I felt our defense won the game," said Krzyzewski. "I thought it was outstanding for three quarters, especially since we didn't hit shots and we missed a lot of dunks. I liked the mental toughness of our team. We kept reminding them we're not doing it on offense, don't let it affect defense. I thought it didn't."
Despite being outrebounded by Brazil 38-30, the USA recorded 13 second-chance points to Brazil’s five, and the team’s athleticism resulted in 19 fast-break points to Brazil’s 9 in transition.
The South Americans were led by Alex Garcia with 14 points, while Anderson Varajao tallied 12 points and 13 rebounds and Mercelo Huertas dished out 13 assists to go with his 11 points.
Along with USA assistant coaches, Syracuse University and Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim and former NBA head coaches Mike D’Antoni and Nate McMillan, Krzyzewski has led the USA Men’s National Team to gold medal finishes at the 2010 FIBA World Championship and 2008 Olympic Games.