Young Stars Lead U.S. Men's National Team To Victory In Exhibition Vs. Brazil
• VIDEO: Phantom Cam Highlights
• VIDEO: Anthony Davis dunk
• VIDEO: Rose Buzzer Beater
There was concern on the U.S. side as the Men’s National Team took the court at the United Center, knowing that the Brazilian team they were facing was loaded with talent and experience. However, none of that mattered in the end, as the United States was able to put away the Brazilians, 95-78, Saturday night before a loud and appreciative sellout crowd.
This exhibition – or “friendly” -- was quite a bit tougher than the final score indicated.
Head coach Mike Krzyzewski had full respect for Brazil, knowing that they featured NBA stars Tiago Splitter, Nene, Leandro Barbosa and Anderson Varejao. Brazil’s size and strength in the front court figured to be a problem for an American team that seemed to have matchup problems with that size and strength.
The Americans appeared to have an edge in speed and quickness, and it quickly showed. USA Basketball ran out to a big 29-15 lead in the first quarter, and they were able to put Brazil on their heels quickly.
Much of that was due to the aggressiveness of Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry, James Harden and hometown hero Derrick Rose. However, the biggest contribution came from 6-foot-10 Anthony Davis, who scored 20 points, had eight rebounds and five blocked shots. Davis stood up to his bigger and more experienced opponents on every occasion.
As much as it was a homecoming for Rose, it was also one for Davis. The Chicago native, who attended Perspectives Charter School, was one of the top high school players during his formative years, but he hadn’t played at the United Center since his high school days.
“It was big to come in here and play that well as a team,” Davis said. “The fans supported us and it was nice to hear it, but the best part was that we gave them something to cheer about throughout the game.”
Davis had the crowd on his side from the start, but his maximum hustle play in the fourth quarter was perhaps his most impressive move. After the Brazilians had missed two shots around the basket, the ball got tapped out to midcourt and Davis sped after it. Instead of letting it go out of bounds, he launched himself head first and tipped it back into play as he fell hard into the second row.
“Anthony played great for us,” said Rose. “And when you see him diving, hustling and throwing himself all over to make a play, that’s really something. I’m so happy for him to contribute like that. It means a lot for this team.”
The Chicago fans were clearly most excited about Rose, who demonstrated explosiveness, athleticism and most important of all, good health in this game. His drive down the left side of the court in the final seconds of the first half was one of the highlights of the game. He banked that shot in off the glass at the buzzer, and it allowed the United States to go into the locker room with momentum and a 45-37 lead.
He also made another highlight-film play with a left-handed crossover in the third quarter. Rose scored seven points in the game and he also missed two dunks, but his signature explosiveness and athleticism was clearly back on display and the sellout crowd of 21,309 showed their appreciation.
“I guess people want me to do it every time,” Rose said. “I just saw an opening and I went for it. It was just me playing the way that I play. This is big for the city and for USA Basketball.”
Krzyzewski felt that his team would be severely tested by Brazil, but his team’s maximum effort and consistency helped the Americans maintain control throughout. Brazil made impressive runs in the second and third quarters, but it had no answers in the fourth quarter.
“One thing I have to say is that I am really happy with the effort we have gotten from our guys,” Krzyzewski said. “They worked extremely hard in practice and it carried over into this game. There were mistakes, but we played hard from start to finish.”
Assistant coach Tom Thibodeau, who also got a rousing ovation from appreciative Bulls fans, spoke about the American team establishing a baseline for the upcoming FIBA Basketball World Cup with the performance in the exhibition game. He believes that USA Basketball will be able to build off this win in future games.
The American team does not have the superstar power that its previous international teams put on the floor. However, many of the top players on the team – Curry, Rose, Harden and Irving – are emerging stars who are only getting better. Add in breakout performances from Davis and Klay Thompson, and it shows that the USA National Team is in excellent shape as it prepares for competition in the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
STAT WATCH: Both teams made 32-of-65 shots (.492 percent) in the game. The Brazilians were 6-of-15 from 3-point range, while the Americans were just 4-of-17. However, USA Basketball had a huge edge at the free-throw line, making 27-of-31 compared to 8-of-16 for Brazil. … Harden was the second-leading scorer for the Americans with 18 points. He was 11-of-11 from the free throw line and record a team best five assists… Kenneth Faried had a solid night, scoring 11 points and grabbing a game high nine rebounds …The Americans had a 37-29 edge on the boards. Both teams had 11 offensive rebounds. … The USA had eight blocked shots, while the Brazilians could muster only one…Although undersized on paper, the Americans outscored Brazil in the paint 44-to-32…Tiago Splitter led Brazil's effort, recording 16 points on 8-of-9 shooting from the field.