Reporting from Las Vegas -- The USA Men’s National Basketball Team concluded a successful first week of training camp leading up to the 2016 Rio Olympics by crushing the Argentinian National team, 111-74, in an exhibition Friday night in the first sold out basketball game played at the new T-Mobile Arena.
Newly-minted Golden State Warriors acquisition and four-time NBA scoring champ Kevin Durant led the way for the U.S., tallying 23 points in the Las Vegas leg of the team’s USA Basketball Showcase. The team will also play additional exhibition games in Los Angeles, Oakland, Houston, and Chicago.
Despite shooting a less-than-stellar 44 percent from the field and enduring a third quarter mini-run from the Argentine team, the U.S. used suffocating defense, a dominant effort on the boards, and a sizable first half lead to cruise to the victory.
Durant commented on this after the game, saying, “we started off with a steal and a dunk and then just kept going after that, and the next five came in and did the same thing.”
A look at the final box score seemed to support Durant’s assertion, as Paul George, looking to put the gruesome compound fracture that he suffered two years ago in Las Vegas behind him, was solid as he chipped in 18 points off the bench.
USA Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski was pleased with his team’s performance, commenting that overall he “thought it was good for our team,” before adding, “we got to play everybody double-figure minutes, use a lot of different combinations . . . the huge thing for us during these five exhibition games is to try to be in game shape by the time we get to Rio.”
In fact, three of Krzyzewski’s five starters scored in double figures, and his starting backcourt of Kyrie Irving and Klay Thompson each had nine points apiece. Starting center DeMarcus Cousins had a double-double of 14 points and 15 rebounds, and New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony was steady in recording 17 points and 7 rebounds.
As for Argentina, they were paced by NBA veteran and former Chicago Bull Andres Nocioni, who recorded 15 points.
“Nocioni was really good," said Durant. "He’s been out of the league for a while but he’s always a threat. It was a great first exhibition for us. We are looking at this group and we have guys that want to work, guys that want to come out and sacrifice and win, and that just makes it easier to play.”
Coach K was also very complimentary of the current head coach of what has traditionally been a very competitive and solid Argentine team, calling Sergio Hernandez “one of the best coaches in the world . . . I know he’s bringing them along. Their movement is more similar to a European team . . . the other exhibitions that we play will not be that way. So, this was good. Their movement is very good, so we have a lot to look at.”
Both Durant and Krzyzewski were extremely effusive in their praise of the two big men on the roster, Cousins and DeAndre Jordan, and the yeoman’s work that they did on the boards. Cousins was obviously very effective in this regard, as evidenced by the fact that he gobbled up 15 caroms on the night.
Durant specifically referred to Cousins as a “bulldog down there for us. I think he had what – 15 or 16 rebounds for us -- which is unheard of in USA play, you know because we’ve got so many guys. But, having two centers, we’re going to rotate those two together, and they’re going to be huge for us."
The team will next head west to Los Angeles, where they will play their next exhibition game against China on Sunday, before heading north up the coast to Oakland to play them again in a second exhibition later in the week.
By Kweku Turkson
Staff Reporter for TheDailySportsHerald.com