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.

Robin Lopez helpfully stopped to tie Jae Crowder’s shoe (VIDEO)

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Why did Robin Lopez tie Jae Crowder‘s shoe during Sunday’s Game 4 between the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls? We may never know. Perhaps he was just helping the Celtics forward after he tossed him to the ground? Or maybe he’s just doing weird Robin Lopez things?

In any case, Lopez helpfully stopped to tie Crowder’s shoe after it came off during a battle down low early in the third quarter at United Center.

Here’s how it went down.

Via Twitter:

I still have no idea.

Noticeably frustrated, Russell Westbrook gets prickly with reporter after loss to Rockets (VIDEO)

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The Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets played an ugly game down the stretch on Sunday. The Rockets employed a hack-a-Andre Roberson strategy, while the Thunder played sloppy and often poorly with Russell Westbrook out of the game.

The latter was the subject in question when Oklahoman reporter Berry Tramel spoke with Westbrook and Steven Adams at a postgame press conference following the Game 4 loss, 113-109.

Tramel’s question — whether the Rockets got a boost when Westbrook was off the floor — was directed at Adams, but the Thunder MVP candidate couldn’t let it go.

Snapping at Tramel, Westbrook told him not to split them up.

Via Twitter:

Tramel’s question is legitimate, and one of the overarching themes of this series thus far. Westbrook’s response is pretty far off the mark, but it did tell the story of how he’s feeling going away from Chesapeake Arena down 3-1.

Game 5 is on Tuesday in Houston.

Kevin Love throws full court pass to LeBron James for sweet and-1 bucket (VIDEO)

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Kevin Love and LeBron James were locked in an epic battle with the Indiana Pacers during the first half of Sunday’s Game 4 playoff matchup. Part of that matchup included yet another long, full court pass between the Cleveland Cavaliers duo.

Love, as you might guess, was the passer and LeBron was again the receiver.

The play came in the final minute of the second quarter, with Love nabbing a rebound from the right block and LeBron jetting down the floor.

Love’s pass was perfectly placed, and Paul George just didn’t have the strength to keep him from getting the and-1.

Cleveland completed the series sweep on Indiana with the win, 106-102.

Nene’s 28 lead Rockets past Thunder for 3-1 series lead

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Nene scored 28 points on perfect shooting from the field, and the Houston Rockets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 113-109 on Sunday to take a 3-1 lead in their first-round playoff series.

Nene made all 12 of his shots and had 10 rebounds. He helped the Rockets overcome an off night by James Harden, who finished with 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting.

Eric Gordon and Lou Williams each scored 18 points for the Rockets. Trevor Ariza had 14.

Game 5 is Tuesday night in Houston.

Oklahoma City star Russell Westbrook had a triple-double by halftime and finished with 35 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists. The Thunder said Westbrook joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only players to claim three consecutive playoff triple-doubles.

Steven Adams scored 18 points and Victor Oladipo added 15 for the Thunder.

Westbrook had 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists at the break. He grabbed the 10th rebound in the final second of the second quarter, and the Thunder led 58-54 at intermission. Meanwhile, Harden made just 2 of 9 shots and scored just six points in the first half.

The Thunder opened the second half with a 10-2 run, but Houston closed to 77-73 at the end of the third quarter.

Adams made the first of two free throws with 21.7 seconds remaining to cut Oklahoma City’s deficit to four. He rebounded his missed second free throw and found Westbrook for a 3-pointer that cut Houston’s lead to one point. But the Thunder lost track of Nene on the other end, and he converted a three-point play. Gordon’s two free throws with 6.2 seconds made it a four-point game.

TIP-INS

Rockets: G Patrick Beverley was fined $25,000 by the NBA for confronting a fan after Game 3. The league announced the fine about two hours before Game 4 tipped off.

Thunder: Westbrook had just one turnover in the first half. … Adams went 6 for 6 from the field in the first half. … Westbrook missed all six of his shots in the third quarter.

Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP.