Additional Quotes >> USA 119, Slovenia 76
Sept. 9, 2014
USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Duke University)
Comments about the game:
It’s always an honor to play against Slovenia; so well coached, and I think as good of a perimeter as anybody in these two pools. With (the) Dragics (Goran and Zoran) and (Domen) Lorbek you have three of the really outstanding players in the whole tournament. So, we knew it would be a tough game. I thought we played really hard the whole game, we just couldn’t finish in the first half some of those plays, and they stayed with it and the flood gates opened in the second half. But our effort was there, intensity and emotion the whole game.
Can you talk about James Harden’s third quarter turn-around and do you think there was anything different strategically that allowed him to succeed then but not in the first half?
I think it’s all on James. I thought he was driving the ball well in the first half. It seemed in that second quarter there was a lot of physical activity when you took the ball to the basket. He had that one call where it looked like it was going to be a three-point play, but it was called a charge. He had some unfortunate luck. He was making good strong moves, and sometimes in a game it doesn’t happen for a player and then a player can put his head down, and James did not. He made some amazing plays. I thought some of the loose balls we got to were key plays, and James did that. I think he was 0-for-8, he and Steph (Curry) were 0-for-12 in the first half, and we were up seven. So we said, ‘I don’t think that will happen in the second half’ and it didn’t.
Do you think this USA Team is unbeatable?
No, no. No, we’re beatable, there’s no question about it. We’re a very young team, and that’s why I was really pleased with how we handled things today, because usually a young team would get really frustrated with the ball not going in and it turned pretty physical. At halftime I just thought they kept their composure. I told them at halftime, I said we need to be a mature team, and they were. We’re not this powerhouse or anything. We have good athletic ability, we play hard defensively, but we’re young. I know internationally especially, it’s tough to win young. I know that from 2006, that’s a lesson we learned that the Greek team taught us how to play internationally, and part of it was to play together, play with veterans and play with pose, and we’re trying to get this with a young team.
Last match you said your offense was good but it could be outstanding; tonight you had six players with more than 10 points, is that outstanding and could you comment on the evolution of this team?
The one consistent thing that these guys have done, well they done a few thing consistency, they’ve listened well, worked hard and they’ve played really good defense. We’ve never had that not happen. So the familiarity of them playing together should help them offensively, and the longer they would play together, obviously we don’t get a chance to play together long, they should get better and better. Like in the second half I thought we really shared ball well. Kyrie gave us a big lift; Derrick, that was his best game. Our guards really got everybody involved and then we got loose balls, which, you get loose balls and you score 40 points off turnovers, your offense looks good. 40 points off turnovers is a lot of points.
Can you say a few words about the next opponent in the semifinals and what you need to do to beat Lithuania?
We haven’t studied Lithuania yet. I have coached against Lithuania many times; I love Lithuania. I think they’re really one of the great basketball countries. They love the game, they play it with a passion, they played together, they play so hard. On this team, I haven’t studied them yet, but Martin P. played for me at Duke; he’s played really well. He had a great game today. But they play with great heart. (Renaldas) Sebitus is a key perimeter guy, and their big guys, they hit you with really good big guys. Well coached, again, it will be a tough game for us, we know that. We respect the heck out of them. We really do. And their fans, what a neat scene, just like the Slovenia fans, they’re supportive of their country.
Seems like in every game that happens Klay Thompson’s game you see another facet of it so I wanted you to comment on that, and then secondly, not the first game in which Steph Curry was in foul trouble; what does he have to do to stay out of foul trouble?
Klay has been a consistent high-level performer for us. He’s just doing what he does in the NBA, and that’s being an outstanding player. He can hit shots but he can really play defense. We knew that when we started trials that he would be a valuable, valuable … A number of these guys are like having starters in there all the time, but Klay has accepted his role really well. With Steph, part of it is he’s trying to play really good defense, and sometimes he has his hands on a guy and he did it twice with their really good shooter, (Klemen) Prepelic, really a great shooter. You’ve got to keep your hands off of him and play with your body.
Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)
Close game in the first half … what was different in the second half?
We know we’re not going to blow everybody out from the start. Nothing is going to be easy. Even though the score was what it was, we felt like we had to really work for what we got tonight, and everybody on our team played well on both ends of the floor, so just happy to get the win.
Have you seen any Lithuania games?
I watched a couple of them. We know a couple of their players. Obviously Valanciunas. We’ll study up on them the next 48 hours and be ready to play. We watched them when they played Slovenia in their pool play game, so we know a little bit about them. Now that we won this game, we can turn our focus on them.
How have you enjoyed the World Cup?
It’s been fun to go out and play well. Great crowds. When you’re winning, things are fun.
What have you picked up about the international game?
It’s different. Every team plays differently, has different systems and different strengths. You got to be versatile. You got to be able to adjust and kind of learn on the fly what it’s going to take to be successful.
Do you consider yourselves a team without weak spots?
We haven’t shown them because we’ve played well. We’ve been focused and haven’t had any poor stretches of games. That’s a good sign for us going forward to be ready for any situation that comes our way. Like I said, they played us tough for the first 20 minutes, but we just kept with the program and got the win.
What do you think about Lithuania?
They are a tough team. They played Slovenia tough. They had a tough match today against Turkey, and were able to pull it out. (We’re) familiar with a couple of their players, played them in 2010 – actually twice, once in Madrid and once in Istanbul back then. Very familiar with them. Gonna study up on them for the next 48 hours and try to come out with another win.
What do you think of a US-Spain final?
I’m not worried about it right now until we get there.
Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans)
Comments about the game:
Great game, hats off to Slovenia, they’re a great team, a great 3-point shooting team. They played hard and battled. We knew they were going battle. They had us on our heels a little bit going into half when we’re only up seven. We couldn’t make a shot fall but we just kept defending and that kind of triggered our offense.
You were dominating today in the paint and rebounds; do you think you can do the same against Lithuania?
I just want to play hard, play with a lot of passion, a lot of energy. Coach definitely wants all the bigs to get offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, and wants every rebound to be ours so they only get one shot, so that’s what me, Kenneth, DeMarcus, Rudy, that’s all we try to do; Andre and Mason, just try and get every rebound.
When shot aren’t falling, what are you thinking mentally in a game like this?
You just got to keep playing, I think defense triggers your offense. The harder you play the easier the shot is going to be. To definitely start playing defense, you get a lot of fast break, easy looks. I think for great shooters or any basketball player, they have a mindset that all you need to see one shot go in. You just got to make sure you playing hard and keep shooting the ball.
Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets)
Talk about the balanced scoring of the team:
We all share the ball. There is no one player, one star on the team. Everybody wants to touch the ball. Everybody gets to score the ball. Tonight, six players were able to score in double figures, but everybody that stepped on the court was able to get a bucket.
What are your thoughts on Lithuania?
We’re ready. We’re going to lock in and be ready for that one.
Can you explain the energy you’re able to produce night after night?
I’m playing basketball. I’m playing the game I love. I’m playing the game that I grew up loving and grew up watching guys play hard. It just comes because I love the game so much.
Is it a concern that you haven’t had close games in the fourth quarter?
I don’t think so. I don’t think it’s a concern at all. It just shows we have enough toughness in the first three quarters or the first two quarters to overcome any deficit, and tonight we overcame a fighting Slovenia who just kept coming and kept coming, but they couldn’t withstand us. We got them tired.
Did you think you reached another level tonight?
No, I don’t think so. I think we needed to come today, and we just played hard. I felt I needed to set the tone like I do each and every night.
What do you know about Lithuania?
I know they got Valanciunas, who plays for the Toronto Raptors. He’s a good big, and he’s going to be a force down there, but we’re ready for him. We’re ready for whatever.
Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Thoughts on the game?
I just think we did a great job competing on both sides of the floor. Obviously it was close in the first two quarters. We just came out and competed at a different level in the second half.
Big third quarter?
It was a total team effort. Obviously it took all of us to pick up our effort on both ends of the floor, and I think we did that.
How is your back?
I’m alright. I’m as good as I’m going to get right now.
Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls)
What was the adjustment you made tonight that you mentioned yesterday?
Coach K giving me the green light. He just told me to go out there and play the way I normally play, don’t worry about getting guys into the game. The way that I play, guys find a way to play around me, so tonight just trying to be aggressive and try to keep it going.
Did the situation tonight help to get you going early?
I’m kind of used to it, but at the same time, I know that when they start the game like they did, coming off the bench is huge. I have to be huge with my energy defensively and to the ball and just seeing what’s open on the court. Going out there and performing and seeing what the game’s missing and to just try to put it into the game.
I felt good, especially when you hear from somebody like Coach. He told me to just go out there and play, and when someone like that tells you to really play your type of game, it kind of eases you a little bit. I was just trying to play with a lot of poise out there.
At this point, do you expect big runs like you had in the third quarter, you know you’re capable of that?
For sure. With the team that we have, we know that scoring shouldn’t be a problem. It’s defensively. Usually when we turn our defense up, you see at the end that scoring shouldn’t be a problem with all the shooters that we have. The way that we start the game, they were making shots at the beginning. We just try to keep coming at them with waves, and you see at the end they were pretty tired.
What do you like most about how the team is playing right now?
We’re playing with a lot of confidence. I think we’re all learning each other every day, every shootaround. We’re just trying to keep it going and we know that we have two more games starting with tonight getting rest, and tomorrow we got shootaround and a little light practice and we got another game on Thursday.
What did Faried and Davis mean in the first half with their offensive rebounding when shots weren’t falling?
They were huge. I think Ken started off well making shots. AD had to knock off a little rust early, and he came out huge with a lot of tip dunks and rebounds and hustle plays. When our bigs are playing like that, we got to find ways to get them the ball, and that’s what we did and it opened up the game a little bit.
What did it mean to get James going in the third quarter?
We’re not worried when guys are missing shots. That’s part of the game. He came out and played a great second half, scoring the ball just feeling more comfortable. They weren’t giving him calls in the beginning. When we see something like that happening during a game with a great scorer like he is, we got to continue to give him the ball and find ways to make the offense easier.
Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)
How did the game change in the second half?
We know they are a tough team. They don’t back down. They play physical. It’s a 40-minute game. If it was a 20-minute game, it would be a whole different story. We play good teams, like Slovenia and Lithuania next, we just want to keep pressuring them, keep wearing on them and not give them any easy shots. They got a few tonight, but as long as we keep flying around on defense. We’re more athletic than every team in this tournament, so we have to use that to our advantage.
Would you agree ball movement was better in the second half?
No question. When we play (isolation) ball, that’s when we are at our worst. When we share the ball, we have way too many weapons on this team. When we pass the ball and drive to the basket, that’s when we are at our best, because it collapses the defense and opens up so many shots for our great shooters from the outside.
What was going on shooting wise at the beginning of the game?
Might have been nerves. That’s basketball. That’s how the ball bounces some days. Our bigs did a great job crashing the glass. Outrebounding teams could be huge for us, and we did a good job of that tonight.