USA Beats Puerto Rico in Exhibition Game
Puerto Rico hung with the USA Senior National squad for the first 13 minutes of the 2006 State Farm USA Basketball Challenge that was held Thursday evening at UNLV's Thomas & Mack Center, but a monster 31-2 run by the USA that covered the second and third quarters thrust the Americans on to a very impressive 114-69 victory. Box score in new window.
Playing in front of a sold-out crowd of 18,218 and a live ESPN2 television audience, the USA fell behind Puerto Rico 33-29 with 7:20 to play in the second quarter. But then the Americans put the pedal to the metal and outscored Puerto Rico 19-2 the remainder of the stanza and at the end of the first half the U.S. was on top 48-35.
Picking up at the start of the third quarter where it had left off in the second, the Americas added a 12-0 offensive spurt to take full control 60-35 with 8:12 still to go in the third stanza.
The win, fueled by 18 points from Carmelo Anthony (Denver Nuggets), 16 points from Antawn Jamison (Washington Wizards) and 14 more from Dwayne Wade (Miami Heat), marked the successful debut by the newly organized USA Basketball Men's Senior National Team. The team's 114 points were the most by a USA senior team in exhibition play since the 1996 Senior Team tallied 128 versus Greece (7/14/1996).
The U.S. will meet Puerto Rico again on Aug. 19, in the opening game of preliminary play at the 2006 FIBA World Championship in Sapporo, Japan.
"Puerto Rico played a great first quarter and made adjustments to go against our pressure defense and they were really good. And then our guys made some adjustments to not overextend themselves and we were really good. Our guys are diving for balls and they're playing hard and playing unselfishly like that. I'm proud of them and we are going to get an early morning flight and go to China now and hopefully we'll improved a little bit there too," said USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
"I thought our defense was the turning point in that second period. We got a little bit overextended – our guys were so excited to play."
The first quarter was a even affair as Orlando Magic guard Carlos Arroyo's nine first quarter points helped keep his Puerto Rico team with in reach and following a 3-pointer by Rick Apodaca right before the buzzer the USA lead stood at three, 29-26 after one period.
With the USA going with five new players to start the second quarter, Puerto Rico took advantage and reeled off seven straight points to take a 33-29 lead with 7:20 to go in the opening half. However, a jumper by Brad Miller (Sacramento Kings) started the U.S. on a game clinching 19-2 run that resulted in the USA opening up a 48-35 advantage at the half.
Despite the intermission, the USA's dominance continued in the third quarter as it scored the third quarter's first 12 points to expand its lead to 60-35 and end any question about who would finish on top this evening.
"I feel like the shots are just coming to me," said Anthony, the USA's leading scorer who made 6-of-9 shots from the field. "When you're out there with guys like Chris Paul, Lebron, Dwyane, it's kind of hard for other teams to guard everybody… somebody is going to get open shots, somebody might get 10 shots, somebody else might get two…we don't worry about that."
Thirteen of the USA's 14 finalists scored in the game, LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers) and Joe Johnson (Atlanta Hawks) each recorded 10 points, while the USA' rebounding effort was led by Dwight Howard's (Orlando Magic) 10 boards, and by Chris Paul (New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets) who handed out a game best eight assists.
The U.S. outscored Puerto Rico 41-4 in points off a turnover. The Americans also owned the glass, outrebounding Puerto Rico 48-34. The in your face USA defense limited Puerto Rico to 35.8 percent shooting from the field and forced 25 tournovers.
"We know what kind of team they have,"said Puerto Rico's Arroyo. "They are definitely a different team than what they showed two years ago at the Olympics."
The 14 finalists contending for the 12 man 2006 USA Basketball Men's World Championship Team roster include: Anthony; Gilbert Arenas (Washington Wizards); Shane Battier (Houston Rockets); Chris Bosh (Toronto Raptors); Bruce Bowen (San Antonio Spurs); Elton Brand (Los Angeles Clippers); Kirk Hinrich (Chicago Bulls); Howard; James; Antawn Jamison (Washington Wizards); Johnson; Miller; Paul and Wade.
Assisting USA head coach Krzyzewski are Syracuse University (N.Y.) and Hall of Fame mentor Jim Boeheim, Phoenix Suns head mentor Mike D'Antoni and Portland Trail Blazers head coach Nate McMillan.
The USA's training now moves to Guangzhou, China, where the team will train Aug. 6, and play two games as part of the China Basketball Challenge, facing China on Aug. 7 and Brazil on Aug. 8.
From Aug. 11-15 the USA will participate in the five-team World Basketball Challenge 2006 that will be held in Seoul, Korea, at the site of the 1988 Olympic Games basketball competition - Jamsil Gymnasium. The Challenge features national teams from the United States, Italy, Korea, Lithuania and Turkey.
The World Basketball Challenge 2006 officially gets underway Friday, Aug. 11, when Korea plays Turkey (6 p.m., all times local). On Saturday, Aug. 12, Korea will take on Lithuania (2 p.m.), while Italy and Turkey (4 p.m.) will clash in the evening's second game. The USA opens its play on Sunday, Aug. 13, against Lithuania (2 p.m.), and Korea versus Italy (4 p.m.) caps the day's schedule. The Challenge concludes Tuesday, Aug. 15, with Korea meeting the U.S. (3 p.m. local time). The U.S. squad is also scheduled to train in Seoul on Aug. 11, 12, 14, and 16.
The USA's visit to China and Korea mark the first time that a USA men's senior national basketball team comprised of NBA players has visited either country.
The United States will depart on Aug.17 for Sapporo, Japan, where it will play its preliminary round games of the 2006 FIBA World Championship for Men from Aug. 19-24.