In an exhibition showdown between two of the world’s premier basketball teams, the United States made easy work of Argentina in a 111-74 victory Friday.
More important than the end result, Friday’s game was dominated by the storyline of Paul George playing in his first official game with Team USA since suffering a horrific leg injury during a scrimmage Aug. 1, 2014.
If there was any concern about George’s mindset coming into the game, he put it to rest quickly. The Indiana Pacers superstar scored 10 points off the bench in the first quarter, warranting high praise from Evan Massey of Fox Sports.
It would be hard to argue against George as the best player on the floor Friday, even with the presence of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. George finished with 18 points and two rebounds to help procure the U.S. victory in the first game on its exhibition schedule before it heads to Brazil for the Olympics.
Per Michael Lee of The Vertical, George was looking forward to getting back on the court while wearing the red, white and blue uniform: “That’s when it’ll hit. I’m finally on that international stage.”
George wasn’t alone in helping the United States breeze past Argentina. In his first game since signing with the Golden State Warriors, Durant looked like he will fit right in with the Splash Brothers.
In fact, there was a time in the second quarter when Durant, Green and Thompson were on the floor together. Their first moments together resulted in Durant drilling a three-pointer to help Team USA increase its sizable lead.
However, as Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group noted, there was a time when Durant and Thompson were not firing on all cylinders.
Fortunately for the Warriors, Durant turned it around, finishing with a game-high 23 points on 4-of-9 shooting from three-point range.
DeMarcus Cousins, another player who needed to get away from the off-court distractions that have popped up in the offseason, also fared well, finishing with a double-double thanks to 14 points and 15 rebounds.
There was a clear mismatch between the 6’11” Cousins and the Argentine team, especially when it came to securing the ball after missed shots, as Zach Harper of CBS Sports noted.
This marks the first time Cousins will be playing for Team USA in the Olympics, though he did win a gold medal with the squad at the 2014 FIBA World Cup. Being around this kind of environment could be what he needs heading into a new season with the Kings.
Irving’s first game action since he helped the Cleveland Cavaliers earn their first title in franchise history with a three-pointer against the Warriors did not go as smoothly. He struggled to find his shot, going 3-of-8 from the field to finish with nine points, though he did have six assists to make up for it.
Argentina could not get anything going against the United States offensively, shooting 40.3 percent from the field. Andres Nocioni, who had an excellent day with 15 points and seven rebounds, was the lone bright spot, warranting praise from James Ham of CSN Bay Area.
Unfortunately for Argentina, Nocioni’s strong performance also highlighted the problems for the country’s national basketball team. He and Manu Ginobili, 38, were the two best players on the floor for their team, but they are a combined 74 years old.
Meanwhile, the U.S. didn’t have to worry about LeBron James and Stephen Curry opting out of the Olympics this summer because it had Durant, Green and Thompson, among others, ready to step up.
Most of Team USA’s standout players are in their 20s. Carmelo Anthony is the elder statesman at 32 years old, with Kyle Lowry being the only other player on the roster over the age of 30.
The United States has not had much time to piece its team together because of the NBA playoffs, so knocking off the rust in spectacular fashion against an Argentina team that’s No. 4 in the FIBA rankings speaks well for what is awaiting in the Olympics.
George was all smiles after the game, via USA Basketball, saying “it was great to get back out there.”
George also spoke about what it was like stepping on the court again, per Rick Semmler of WTHI-TV:
There was praise going around from Krzyzewski for George, specifically, after the game, via Michael Lee of the Vertical: “I think he’s playing the best basketball in his life right now.”
Coming off a season with the Pacers in which George averaged a career-high 23.1 points to go along with seven rebounds and 4.1 assists per game, it’s hard to argue with Coach K’s assessment.
Looking at his whole team via USA Basketball, Krzyzewski said the week leading up to Friday’s game has “been great” for Team USA. He added the team shows “a willingness from these guys to work on anything we need and to work hard,” per the Associated Press (via ESPN.com).
Durant told the AP after the win that the U.S. is not taking anything for granted: “We want to get this gold and right now we have a job to do. We have to prepare the right way.”
Team USA’s size and length caused Argentina all sorts of problems, which Krzyzewski pointed out to the AP: “We really have an inside presence on the boards.”
This was just the first step on what will be a four-week journey for Krzyzewski and Team USA as they seek their third straight Olympic gold and 15th overall.
Courtesy: Bleacher Report.com