By Jason Schott – BrooklynFans.com Reporter / Assignment Editor - @JESchott19
The USA Men’s Basketball team beat Puerto Rico 112-86 in their second exhibition game at Madison Square Garden on Friday night, and it was closer than the final score.
Puerto Rico played the U.S. even in the first quarter, with the score tied at 24, and were down just 5, at 52-47, at halftime.
The third quarter is when the U.S. ran away with it. They opened the third on a 14-2 run capped by an Antony Davis three-point play that made it 66-49 with 6:00 left. They built that lead up to 21, at 79-58 on a Demarcus Cousins tip-in with 2:44 left, and led 87-67 at the end of the third.
The U.S. lead got to as high as 30 points, at 110-80, on a Kyrie Irving driving lay-up with 2:39 left. Their final basket came on a dunk on a breakaway by Nets center Mason Plumlee with 18.6 seconds left that made it 112-86, which was the final.
The U.S. was led by point guard Stephen Curry, who had 20 points on 6-for-7 shooting, inlcuding 4-for-5 on three-pointers, and 4 assists, in 18 minutes of play. Six other U.S. players scored in double figures, James Harden and Rudy Gay had 13 points each, Kenneth Faried and Klay Thompson each had 12, Kyrie Irving had 11 and Anthony Davis had 10 points.
Puerto Rico was led by point guard Jose Juan Barea (known as J.J. in the NBA) of the Minnesota Timberwolves, who had 16 points on 6-for-12 shooting, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. Carlos Arroyo, who used to play for the Miami Heat and now plays for Galatasaray Liv Hospital in Turkey, had 15 points on 4-for-9 from the field, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists. Center Ricardo Sanchez had 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting. Renaldo Balkman, who used to play for the Knicks and currently is a member of Capitanes de Arecibo in Puerto Rico, had 7 points (2-7 FG), 2 rebounds and 1 assist in 20 minutes.
USA Men’s Basketball Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski said of the game, “We got a lot out of tonight’s game. Puerto Rico did a great job, they’ve very well coached. They have really good offensive concepts and their guards are veteran guards. We tried to do too much blitzing, not gambling, but trapping, and they’re just too good, and so they spread us out and got end-of-clock shots and second rebounds. We sucked a little bit differently in the first half than we have the first two ballgames. Second half I thought we played really, really well.
“It’s a different day today. We’re getting ready to leave tomorrow, have to come up with 12 guys tomorrow, so there’s a lot going on. I’m proud of my guys, especially in the second half that they were able to put the correct focus in and we got some great stuff from it. We appreciate the support of the New York fans these two games, sensational crowds,” said Coach K.
Stephen Curry said of the game, “It was a game where we didn’t start off well, like Coach said, defensively was just trying to adjust to their point guards coming off a lot of screen-and-rolls, not waiting for the ball. It was a good test for us to deal with a little adversity, things not going our way in the first half and finding a way to be mentally focused in the second half and get the job done. Not every game’s gonna be pretty when we get to Spain. This is a good test for us, good experience for everybody on this roster, and just glad we got the win and we can look forward to our travel day.”
Coach K said of the team’s chemistry, “Once we get down to 12, we can create a good rotation, guys know what to expect.”
On how many players he will bring to Spain out of the 16 currently on the roster, Coach K said, “We’re going to try to go with 12. We’re gonna go back now, just like we have after every practice, every game, and put our names on the board, see where we’re at, and in the morning, talk to the guys who aren’t going to go forward. We feel that it’s better to go with 12 because it’s really difficult on anyone who isn’t going to be on the team to travel that far. At any time, before the competition starts, if there was an injury or family emergency, we can call one of these guys too. That’s what we really will say to one of these guys going forward.”
The 12 members of the official 2014 USA Basketball World Cup Team were named a few hours after the game ended, and they are: DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings); Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors); Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans); DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors); Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons); Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets); Rudy Gay (Sacramento Kings); James Harden (Houston Rockets);Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers); Mason Plumlee (Brooklyn Nets); Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls); and Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors). The four that did not make the cut were Chandler Parsons of the Dallas Mavericks, Kyle Korver of the Atlanta Hawks, Gordon Hayward of the Utah Jazz, and Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers.
On who will be the starting point guard for their first game in Spain against Slovenia, Coach K said, “We’ll determine that, that’s gonna be one of the big meetings on the plane. My feeling is that Kyrie (Irving), we have to see how Derrick (Rose) reacts to tonight, I thought both of those guys looked really good and then we played them together too, and he (Rose) didn’t play bad at point guard for us either, so we have some depth on that.”