Team USA routes France. What did we really learn?

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Thumbnail image for durant_USA.jpgAs expected, Team USA routed France, 86-55.

We talk about how Team USA is sending a “B” team to the World Championships (Kobe, LeBron, Wade, Melo and more are staying home) but France also has six NBA players not suiting up, including Tony Parker. So what we know for one thing is that the basketball talent pool in the NBA is much deeper than France. Well, not sure we learned that so much as were reminded.

What things did we learn, or at least learn to look for going forward?

* The USA has a lot of work to do on half court offensive execution. Coach K said as much after the game.

The USA’s half court offense early on seemed to be about half-hearted high picks and waiting for dribble penetration from a guard. In the second quarter they got better about trying to exploit mismatches (like anybody on Rudy Gay) but that was sporadic. The spacing was poor at times and there was a little too much isolation and not great player movement. They can do that against France and still win handily, but by the time of the knockout stages of the World Championships there will be teams that can slow the USA running game down, not turn the ball over as much, and force the USA to beat them in the half court. This needs to get better.

* Russell Westbrook looks like he may be the last guy cut (there are 13 guys on the roster right now, that has to be at 12 by Aug. 26). Both Stephen Curry and Eric Gordon looked good with their burn against France, while Westbrook did not get in until late and, while not looking bad, didn’t look as good as the other two. It was thought Gordon and Curry were fighting for one roster spot, but both have simply played too well not to be on the roster.

* The first quarter by the USA was just sloppy. Five turnovers, they missed open looks (Kevin Durant had a few of those in what was an off game for him, but he still finished with 14 points) and at one point France was up three.

* The USA halfcourt pressure man-on-man defense really bothered France, as it will most teams. A few forced 24 second clock violations, forced turnovers that led to chances to run. This is a long and athletic team that can be a defensive force on the wings.

* The USA also ran a lot of zone defense, and they seem to be getting better at it. You need to be good at it in international ball, however, because they run a lot of it in European leagues and guys recognize how to attack it much better than America players tend to. France broke it down a few times beautifully, and Chauncey Billups said that China broke their zone a lot in a scrimmage. Something to watch going forward.

* Lamar Odom looks good playing inside using his quickness and length. He really has a game that’s a great fit for international basketball as a big.

* Not a lot of burn for Kevin Love, who is still getting over a bruised calf, but when he was in you see why he is so key — the outlet pass. Nobody in the league is better at it than him, and on a team that wants to run like the USA that skill is crucial.

* France’s Nicolas Batum… I love his game. I think he could have a big year on a Portland team primed for a breakout year (if they can just stay healthy).

* Billups is good. Very good. Rudy Gay is amazing in the open court. Again, not things we learned but things we were reminded of.

Watch Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant trade shots Saturday night

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Kevin Durant won the one-on-one battle — he dropped 40 points on the Golden State Warriors, while Stephen Curry had “just” 26 and needed 26 shots to get there (but did add 10 assists).

But the Warriors built up a lead thanks to their depth and were able to withstand a late Thunder run to get the win.

Enjoy watching Curry and Durant putting on a show Saturday night in the Bay Area.

Nerlens Noel uses length for ridiculous reverse jam

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Nerlens Noel‘s 7’4″ wingspan can come in handy at times.

Such as when driving on Brook Lopez, and getting forced under the basket, he can just reach around the Nets’ center for the impressive dunk.

Noel finished the game with 18 points, Jahlil Okafor had 22, and the Sixers picked up a win against the Nets 103-98.

Kobe Bryant’s 25 points not enough to upset Spurs

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The San Antonio Spurs have watched helplessly as Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant has tormented them for the better part of the past two decades.

Bryant did so again in his final appearance in San Antonio, but the Spurs were able to enjoy this one.

LaMarcus Aldridge scored 26 points and the San Antonio Spurs overcame a throwback performance by Bryant to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 106-102 on Saturday night to remain unbeaten at home.

“I thought it was great,” San Antonio point guard Tony Parker said. “It was a great game, fans were into it. It felt a little bit like the old days in the playoffs, Spurs and the Lakers.”

Kawhi Leonard added 20 points and 13 rebounds to help the Spurs win their 28th straight home game to open the season. The Spurs’ 37th straight home victory dating back to last season was surprisingly difficult.

Bryant had 16 of his 25 points in the third quarter, going 3 for 6 on 3-pointers in guiding the Lakers to an 81-79 lead entering the fourth.

“I watched him growing up,” said Lakers guard and San Antonio native Jordan Clarkson, who finished with 21 points and four assists. “I watched him kill the Spurs.”

San Antonio has trailed for only two minutes in the fourth quarter at home this season, but the Lakers led for all but 23 seconds in the opening seven minutes of the period.

Bryant finished 9 for 28 from the field, but was 7 for 18 in a dynamic second half that electrified a pro-Bryant crowd.

“It’s like watching Michael (Jordan),” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “I was just watching. It was great. It was great. We made some mistakes. He took advantage of it. He’s fantastic.”

After rising to drain a 3-pointer with Leonard squarely in his face contesting the attempt, Bryant turned to an injured Tim Duncan on the bench and shrugged his shoulders.

“He was like, `No way,’ and I was like `Dude,’ ” Bryant said. “What could I do? I miss the easy ones and make some B.S. like that. I don’t even know what to tell you. It was Tim’s version of a yell, so it was a strong whisper.”

The Lakers trailed 101-99 lead after trading 3-pointers following Bryant’s improbable shot, but the Spurs’ were able to hold Los Angeles to just three points in the final 2 minutes.

“Missed defensive assignments,” said Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell, who had 12 points. “They executed their offense to perfection. We were young and that’s an excuse I could give you.”

Bryant had a sore right shoulder, but he was not about to miss one last game against his fiercest rivals. He has faced the Spurs 90 times in the regular season and postseason, his most against any opponent.

TIP-INS

Lakers: The Spurs honored Bryant with a 3-minute video. The Spurs’ Big Three of Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili all paid tribute to Bryant’s competitiveness along with San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich. Bryant walked over to the Spurs’ bench prior to tipoff and hugged Popovich, sharing a few words with San Antonio’s longtime coach.

Spurs: San Antonio’s 12-game lead in the Southwest is the largest ever since the division was formed in 2004-2005. … In addition to Duncan and Ginobili, the Spurs were also without Matt Bonner. The reserve forward suffered a left calf strain Friday against Dallas, which was just his 20th game of the season. … Pop star Selena Gomez sat courtside, wearing a Tony Parker jersey.

 

Spurs honor Kobe Bryant in his last game in San Antonio (VIDEO)

LOS ANGELES - MARCH 30:  Kobe Bryant #8 of the Los Angeles Lakers stands next to Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs on March 30, 2006 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.  The Spurs won 96-85. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Kobe Bryant farewell tour has gone all around the NBA, but some stops are more emotional than others. His final trip to San Antonio certainly qualifies — the Spurs and Lakers have played each other in the playoffs eight times in his career, including twice in the Western Conference Finals (the Lakers won both times). The only player who has rivaled Bryant’s longevity is Tim Duncan, and the Lakers and Spurs were the two most dominant teams of the 2000s, winning nine of the 12 championships from 1999 to 2010 between them.

So, of course, the Spurs had an elaborate tribute video planned for Bryant. The video ran two and a half minutes and featured narration from Gregg Popovich, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Watch it below: