When you’re not the ’92 Dream Team and penciled in to flog everybody by 30 or 50 points a night, you probably need some close games under your belt to test your clutch-ness and avoid complacency. For Team USA’s 2010 version, that game happened yesterday, as they barely hung on to beat Brazil in a tough contest that exposed a lot of U.S. weaknesses but also may have done them some good for later in the World Championship … Led by Leandro Barbosa, Tiago Splitter and J.J. Barea‘s long-lost cousin Marcelo Huertas, Brazil took the lead in the first quarter and didn’t give it up until late into the third, picking the U.S. apart with screen-and-rolls, timely threes, and Barbosa’s brand of South American Allen Iverson basketball, heavy on the jack … When Brazil couldn’t shoot straight as the second half wore on, Team USA was bailed out by Kevin Durant and Chauncey Billups. KD was a beast throughout, scoring 27 points (9-18 FG) to go with 10 boards. He kept the U.S. within striking distance, and Chauncey (15 pts) woke up just in time to take the reigns offensively. Chauncey couldn’t hit anything from outside (1-7 3PA), so he muscled his way into the paint for crucial buckets … With under a minute to go, Brazil cut the lead to two when Barboa scored after dropping Andre Iguodala with a behind-the-back cross that had Iguodala looking like an “America’s Funniest Home Videos” victim. Following an ill-advised shot on Team USA’s end (Chauncey missing another trey), Huertas got to the line with 3.5 seconds remaining. He missed the first free throw on accident, missed the second on purpose, and got his own rebound. Huertas found Barbosa under the rim for a contested shot, but it rattled out at the buzzer … Big red flags in this one if you’re pulling for the Americans: Pick-and-roll defense is still a problem, as Huertas (8 pts, 5 asts) and Splitter (13 pts, 10 rebs) were looking like Stockton and Malone; there aren’t any “takeover” guys on offense besides KD and Chauncey (this is where Derrick Rose and Rudy Gay step up); and Coach K is still making questionable subs and non-subs. In a game where the offense struggled all day and the shooters were firing bricks, why did Danny Granger and Stephen Curry never get off the bench? Why did Eric Gordon only play five minutes? Why keep loaded guns in the holster? … Other WC stat lines from Day 3: Luis Scola put up 32 points, 8 rebounds and 3 steals as Argentina cruised past Angola; Patty Mills had 16 points and 7 assists in Australia’s rout over Germany; Hamed Haddadi posted 23 points, 13 boards and 4 blocks in Iran’s win over Tunisia; Goran Dragic‘s 14 points helped Slovenia beat Croatia; and Serbia had three players top 20 points as they laid the wood on Jordan, 112-69 … Now that the high school AAU/summer season is wrapped following last weekend’s Elite 24, as the kids head back to school it’s time to drop the newest High School Hoop national Top 50 rankings. Hopefully you got a chance to catch Austin Rivers, the new No. 1, in action this summer on TV. If not, he’ll be coming to a screen near you at some point during the season. Don’t think he’s just some overrated coach’s kid, either; Doc Rivers‘ kid is a BEAST on the court, poised like his Pops was when he played but also an electric athlete. Check out the rest of the Top 50 HERE … The Heat are somehow still signing players; second-round pick Da’Sean Butler‘s new deal gives them like 20 roster spots, and we’re still hearing everybody from Jerry Stackhouse to Larry Hughes to Antoine Walker talking as if Miami is interested in them … The Suns addressed their big-man situation — well, kind of — by re-signing former St. Joe’s center Dwayne Jones. He’d been traded to Toronto in the Barbosa deal, got waived, and is back in Phoenix. He can at least be a tackling dummy in practice so Hakim Warrick can get used to taking punishment from Western Conference bigs, or he’ll be the guy Robin Lopez practices fouling … We’re out like Varejao …
Smack / Aug 31, 2010 / 1:40 am
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