The USA National Team beat the Brazilian team 95-78 in their first exhibition match. This was the first time we got to see Team USA play against another team and their first action since the Paul George injury.
The team looked pretty good. They were sloppy at times and Brazil kept it close. Anthony Davis was the star of the night. He led the team in scoring, had a hustle play jumping into the stands and had five blocks. He was knocking down his mid-range jumper and he finished some alley-oops.
Derrick Rose was back in front of his hometown fans. It was his first game in Chicago since November. He looked good once again. Rose said, “I’ve been preparing for this for a long time. Probably, if this was a couple weeks ago I wouldn’t have been emotional, but right now it feels great. We won the game so that’s the only thing I could be happy about - - we won.” He didn’t have to do much but he did end the half by pushing the ball full court and hitting a runner. He also gave the fans a nice blooper on this missed dunk.
James Harden was second in scoring and he really did his damage at the free throw where he made all 11 of his free throws. He was constantly attacking and drawing fouls. His defensive effort was there all night long. He had two blocks and two steals on the night. He was active and that is a good sign for this team.
Kenneth Faried started alongside Anthony Davis and his energy and effort was great. He made hustle plays and kept possessions alive and he drew fouls on the Brazilian big men. With DeMarcus Cousins out with injury Mason Plumlee was the only big that played off the bench. He came in with good energy and finished around the basket.
Coming into the game I expected all the guys to play and get a chance to make the team. However Gordon Hayward, DeMar DeRozan and Andre Drummond did not see the floor. Other players such as Damian Lillard, Kyle Korver and Chandler Parsons seen limited time and none of them scored a basket.
Coach K essentially went with nine players. Kyrie Irving came off the bench and played really good defense (shocking I know). He was disturbing Brazil’s point guards and forced a few turnovers as soon as he stepped onto the floor. Rudy Gay and Klay Thompson were the wings and Mason Plumlee was the other big man. Gay was there to be a stretch four and play defense on bigger players while Thompson was just another shooter off the bench.
There were no cuts made after the game and I do expect the players who got DNPs to play in New York. I thought DeRozan played really well in the scrimmage and expected him to get more time. Lillard might be the odd man out because of all the other guards on this team. The effort Kyrie showed on the defensive end will get him a spot. Andre Drummond is just not ready yet. Hopefully DeMarcus Cousins will be healthy enough to play in New York and have a chance to make the team.
Chandler Parsons would have been a good option at the stretch four but the arrival of Rudy Gay might have pushed him out of that spot. Gay has more experience and a slightly bigger frame to guard bigger players. Hayward is another guy who would have gotten more time if Rudy Gay was not called upon.
In a close game team USA turned up their defense and put the game away. There were questions going into the game as we wondered who would step up. Anthony Davis is the guy right now and he did a little bit of everything for them. Again they were sloppy and fell asleep on defense at times but it was their first game together.
If DeMarcus Cousins plays well in New York he will make this team. The locks are Stephen Curry, Derrick Rose, James Harden, Kenneth Faried, Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving, Mason Plumlee, Rudy Gay, and Klay Thompson. The last two spots are a toss-up at this point for me but I do think Chandler Parsons makes the team.
Team USA looked good but they can play much better. I like the effort on defense from Harden and Irving. Anthony Davis is just a superstar in the making and the FIBA World Cup will be his coming out party.