HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — We don’t have to wait for the competition in London to start to see just how hospitable the host nation team will be to the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team.
We’ll get a sample of that this afternoon, when the U.S. squares off against Great Britain in Manchester (2 p.m. ET on ESPN2) in their third exhibition leading up to the Olympics.
They didn’t exactly dazzle in that win over Brazil Monday night, escaping the Verizon Center with an 80-69 win thanks to some heavy lifting from LeBron James.
We’ll be watching (and writing) live from the hideout here, locking in on several key issues:
- Who cares if Great Britain doesn’t have a strong low-post rotation, the U.S. needs to get some serious work in for Tyson Chandler, Kevin Love and whoever else they plan on playing down there. Brazil exposed this team’s biggest weakness and you better believe the rest of the world was watching.
- They’ve had enough time to develop a bench rotation capable of blowing games open when they hit the floor. With Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook providing matchup nightmares on the regular, this third exhibition game should provide the platform these two guys need to “Thunder Up” the Olympic competition.
- A U.S. team that can’t find a shooting rhythm from beyond the 3-point line is a vulnerable team, especially when they can’t dominate the transition game. So someone, Kobe Bryant, has to find the sweet spot from deep if they want to run away from Great Britain the way they should (there are 11 more NBA players on the Select Team than there are on Great Britain’s roster).
- We want to see more of Anthony Davis, we want to see more of him on the court and mixing it up against some of these international big men. And that means the U.S. needs a sizable lead in order for the rookie power forward to see action.
- Finally, and we know there is no chance of it happening, but wouldn’t it be hilarious if James busted out his latest, “unstoppable move” in this game?
FIRST QUARTER —
— Deron Williams and Kevin Durant replace Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony in the starting lineup. Tough choices for Coach K. “Uh, not this All-Star point guard, give me the other one. And let’s go with the three-time scoring champ instead of the dude with the career 25-point scoring average.”
— I’ve been waiting years to see Joel Freeland in action. So good to see him score the opening bucket in this game.
— Durant missing 3-pointers and now a dunk and a bunny. He went all the way to Manchester and got nervous?
— I love Fran Fraschilla like a play cousin, but he just said something about it being obvious from courtside that the U.S. has more athleticism on the floor than the Great Britain … uh, you can see that from the moon sir!
— Great Britain staying close with hustle and the deep ball.
— Kobe with the freakshow move on the jumper. 11-6 U.S. leads after Kobe one-ups LeBron’s unstoppable move.
— Tyson Chandler just blocked Andrew Lawrence‘s jumper into the rafters. But my man Pops Mensah-Bonsu answers with a couple of nice dunks. 13-10 with 4:22 to go.
— Luol Deng comes alive here with a couple of nice shots, a drive to the bucket and a corner 3.
— The second group is in for the U.S., Westbrook, Iguodala, Paul, Love and Melo.
— They are causing havoc immediately, turnovers and transition. Westbrook was born for this sort of action. The U.S. will need to play in shifts like this and attack the zone off the dribble drive and by going at the rim instead of jacking jumpers from all over the place.
— This is why I love Melo in international competition, he’s the ideal power forward against most every team. Can play inside and out and his penchant for working in the paint makes him a terrible matchup for most other power forwards.
— Boom! He can go outside and drain the 3. U.S. up 30-20 in the final seconds of the quarter.
— Boom! Another big 3 from Melo. He has 10 quick points off the bench, U.S. leads 33-20 at the end of the quarter.
— 2-for-9 from the U.S. to start and then they drain 10 straight to finish the first quarter.
SECOND QUARTER —
— Melo with an easy dunk off the steal to kick off the scoring in the second. Melo has 12 quick points. This is what I was talking about last week when I wrote about how important he is to this team.
— If GB keeps turning this thing over this could get turn into a 40-point game in a matter of minutes. That’s 14-straight points for the U.S. as they’ve blown this game wide open behind the work of the second unit.
— Anthony Davis getting a little early time in this one. Good to see him this early.
— Clark with a deep 3-ball for GB. That’s a big fella shooting from way outside.
— His name is Luol Deng, right? Who is “Lu Deng.” Help me out Chicago, do they call him “Lu” in the Windy City?
— Mini-run here by GB, within 12 (39-27) after two free throws from Deng. Fouls piling up for the U.S. and the pace slows.
— Deng brings GB to within double digits (39-30).
— U.S. has abandoned their rim attacks. Settling for jumpers all of a sudden. Cold shooting from behind the 3-point line is the only other obvious weakness (big man depth) that this team has. They’re too easily distracted.
— Durant on the fast break dunk. These guys love being able to hang on the rim and not get technical fouls called on them. U.S. goes back up 43-31.
— As long as they keep the floor spaced and allow these point guards to stay in attack mode, the U.S. is nearly impossible to deal with on the offensive end. LeBron cutting the basket from the left and Melo from the right. You can’t defend it.
— Just like that, a 6-0 run pushes the lead back to 49-33. LeBron is so good on the run. Hard for me to fathom that someone I respect once thought Darko Milicic should have been the No. 1 pick in a draft over him (sorry, just like to bring that up now and then).
— Love how Coach K and really the rest of the vets on this team have stepped aside to let Durant be as aggressive as he’s been so far (all three exhibition games). There was a time, as recently as 2004, when the youngsters were asked to defer to their elders … even when they should not have been asked to do so.
— Fitting end to the first half, the U.S. gets a turnover and Westbrook chucks a halfcourt shot that misses. But a 12-4 run to end the quarter gives the U.S. a 55-37 halftime lead.
THIRD QUARTER —
— Durant’s defensive shortcomings are being exposed a bit here by Deng. He’s got three fouls already and has to find a way to use length without picking up silly fouls.
— Freeland finally made another bucket, this one over D. Will. I’ll be interested to see what he could bring to the table in Portland this year, should he make the jump after all of these years.
— D. Will is on fire, lead is up to 22 after his last 3-pointer. 63-41 U.S.
— Boom! Another deep one from D. Will, he’s got all 11 points in the third as the U.S. lead 66-41.
— There’s my guy Freeland with the nice spin move and baseline jam over Durant.
— D. Will comes back with another 3-pointer and pushes the lead to 71-43.
— LeBron SMASH!
— Haha. But he misses one on his next trip. But Melo rescues him with jumper from the wing.
— Melo with another 3-pointer, the U.S. is just clowning now. 82-49 lead before Deng scores on a drive and foul after LeBron hacks him on the arm. U.S. leads by 30 with 2:52 to play.
— Some of these offensive foul calls are just brutal. Westbrook has a guy on skates and runs past him and somehow the foul is on Westbrook. Pure foolishness.
— Love seems to be struggling on the offensive end playing in the paint exclusively. He doesn’t have the freedom on the floor like he usually does with the Timberwolves and it shows. All of his sweet spots are occupied by his U.S. teammates.
— It’s getting harder to really learn much of anything about this team when they are ransacking GB like this. Colonials up 89-55 at the end of the third quarter.
FOURTH QUARTER —
— I wonder what those courtside seats were going for in Manchester?
— Davis showing some lift right there as the U.S. goes up 95-55 with just under nine minutes to play.
— Love catches the reverse oop. Since I mentioned earlier that he was struggling against length, he’s gotten into a really nice rhythm.
— Easy lob for Davis from Westbrook. U.S. just clowning now up 99-58. They just wear you down with wave after wave of All-Stars and No. 1 picks and the like.
— If the U.S. keeps this up they’re going to be deported for the Olympics begin. GB is trying to keep up the pace but it’s just not happening. The sheer volume of talent coming at them, no matter what combinations Coach K deploys, is simply too much for them to handle.
— Brazil had big men that could make the U.S. pause a little bit. The Dominican Republic had Al Horford and Jack Fernandez, who is undersized but a hard-nosed scrapper. And they were obliterated. Freeland, Pops and Eric Boateng have no chance.
— This is great workout time for Davis. He’s the one player on the U.S. roster in need of extended minutes and he’s getting them here. They’re going to need him at some point in London and this gives the coaching a staff to watch him get up and down the floor at least and see how he fits with some of these other guys.
— They always say a guy needs one NBA skill that will allow him to operate early in his NBA career and Davis has a couple. He’s a fantastic shot blocker at any level, his timing is impeccable, and despite his slender frame he’s an excellent position defender. As he gets stronger, he’ll be a regular in the conversation for DPOY. He’s got elite athleticism as well, which is actually a bankable skill in the NBA.
— 118-78 beatdown of the Brits for the U.S. So many guys got loose it’s hard to single out anyone in particular. D. Will and Melo go for 19 each and combine to make 15 of their 18 shots from the floor. They’re unblemished, as expected, through three games. Argentina should be a much more formidable challenge Sunday afternoon.