USA Defense Shuts Down Slovenia
Aug. 29, 2010 • Istanbul, Turkey
In a game of offensive surges, the USA (2-0) had several more than Slovenia (1-1) and behind a game best 22 points from Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder) the USA rolled to a 99-77 victory Sunday evening at Abdi Ipekci Arena in Istanbul, Turkey. It was the second consecutive convincing victory for the Americans in as many nights.
“Coach told us that we wanted to disrupt their offense by pressuring them and getting into the passing lanes and I just tried to do that. I played my hardest and I was able to get my hands on a couple basketballs and get us some easy points,” said Durant, who hit 8-of-13 shots for the evening.
Four U.S. players in addition to Durant finished with double digit point production. Rudy Gay (Memphis Grizzlies) tallied 16 points and nailed 3-of-6 3-pointers, Andre Iguodala (Philadelphia 76ers) and Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder) contributed 11 points each, and Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves) added a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds in just 13 minutes.
The U.S. continues World Championship preliminary round play Monday against FIBA Americas Zone champion Brazil. Brazil, which was 1-0 after earning an 81-65 win over Iran Saturday, faces Tunisia in Sunday’s Group B nightcap.
“It was a good, tough international game. They have a great perimeter. It’s tough to cause turnovers because they really have three guys who can handle the ball,” said USA mentor and Duke University’s Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski. “All in all I thought it was a good day for us to get the amount of experience that we had out there today. I have to keep bringing the team along.
“I think our defense is good. Our offense can hurt it. We had 12 turnovers in that first half and they forced some of those turnovers and then we forced our own turnovers and that puts a lot of pressure on the defense. But, overall I’m very happy with the effort. Our kids played hard. We’ve played 80 minutes in this tournament and we’ve played hard for 80 minutes. As long as we get that effort, we’re going to have a chance.”
Sprinting out of the gate, Durant, five points, and Iguodala, four points, combined to scored nine of the USA’s first 10 points as the U.S. jumped out to a 10-2 lead. The U.S. lead would never get below five points again.
Enjoying a 23-11 lead after the first stanza, the U.S. defense was again aggressive and disruptive right from the start. Limiting Slovenia to an arctic 4-of-18 shooting from the field and just 1-of-9 accuracy from 3-point in the game’s first 10 minutes, the USA hit 9-of-14 shots but turned the ball over seven times.
Slovenia opened the second quarter with a 12-5 run that cut the gap to five, 28-23, with 3:36 left in the period. The U.S., which failed to hit a field goal in the quarter until the 3:29 mark, finally got on track and following a jumper in the lane from Westbrook finished the half with 14-3 run that left it holding a 42-28 advantage at halftime.
The Americans opened the second half by mimicking their first half start, but this time outscored Slovenia 17-4 to blow the game wide open 59-32 with 4:28 left on the clock. The run was fueled by the USA’s defense which saw Chauncey Billups (Denver Nuggets) make a steal and covert with a layup, then next possession, Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls) made a steal and found Durant for another uncontested layup. The USA continued to surge and when Durant dropped a 3ball the U.S. had extended its lead to 59-32.
Slovenia, spurred by its very large and vocal crowd, pushed back and after out gunning the U.S. 14-4, the score was 61-46 with 1:08 to play in the third.
Iguodala made one of two free throws and Gay capped the quarter with an old fashioned three-point play off of an offensive rebound and put back, and the U.S. was back in control 67-46 after three periods.
From there the USA lead never feel below 18 and the USA sailed in for the 99-77 win.
“There were points in the game where we had to rethink the kind of basketball we were playing especially with the second group,” remarked Gay. “Basketball is a game of runs. They made their run. We had a couple of turnovers. We fixed that and made our lead bigger.”
“When we don’t rebound and we don’t play defense, we don’t play well. That’s the key to us. Everybody has their staple and that’s our staple,” he added.
Behind Love’s 11 boards and nine more from Lamar Odom (Los Angeles Lakers), the USA outrebounded Slovenia 50-33, with 14 offensive boards to its credit.
“Brazil is really like an NBA team. They’ll play like we do. They’re veterans. You got guys who are strong contributors on NBA teams in (Leandro) Barbosa and (Anderson) Varejao and Splitter will be one of the newcomers who’s not so young in the league. It’ll be like a medal round game. We’re looking forward to it because it will give us a lot of great experience as we go into the following week,” stated Coach K.
The USA-Brazil World Championship series stands at 6-5 in favor of the United States with the two teams’ last meeting in the 1998 World Championship. Following a day off on Aug. 31, the USA resumes play Sept. 1 against Asia Zone champ Iran, a team it has not faced previously in World Championship play, then closes out preliminary play with a contest versus Tunisia on Sept. 2, another team that the Americans have not met in World Championship action.
In Group B’s middle game Sunday, Croatia (1-1) rolled to a 75-54 win over Iran (0-2), while the nightcap features Brazil (1-0) against Tunisia (0-1). In Group A play in Kayseri, Angola (1-1) defeated Jordan (0-2) 79-65 and Germany (1-1) outlasted Serbia (1-1) 82-81 in a 2 OT thriller. The Group A last game of the day features Argentina (1-0) meeting Australia (1-0). In Group C play in Ankara, China (1-1) outscored Ivory Coast (0-2) 83-73 and Greece (2-0) nipped Puerto Rico (0-2) 83-80. The finale in Group C tonight features host Turkey (1-0) versus Russia (1-0). In Group D games played in Izmir, Lithuania (2-0) rallied to take down Canada (0-2) 70-68 and France (2-0) knocked off Lebanon (0-2) 86-59. The final Group D game features Spain (1-0) against New Zealand (0-1).
The 2010 USA World Championship Team assistant coaches are Syracuse University’s Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim, Portland Trail Blazers head coach Nate McMillan and Toronto Raptors head mentor Jay Triano.
The 2010 FIBA (International Basketball Federation) World Championship for Men is being held Aug. 28-Sept. 12 in Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir and Kayseri, Turkey. Twenty-four teams are competing in the 2010 FIBA World Championship for Men and those teams were divided into four preliminary round groups consisting of six teams each.