LAS VEGAS — Exhibition games should be about experimentation, about learning things to help you later. Unfortunately, you can’t learn too much from Team USA’s 113-59 throttling of the Dominican Republic in Las Vegas
We learned that teams are going to struggle with the athletes and pressure defense Team USA can bring. We learned that teams are going to pack the paint on the USA and give them jumpers (which they knocked down for a night). We learned that Kevin Durant can really score. We learned Carmelo Anthony is fun to watch when he works off the ball.
Those are things we all knew.
What we did start to learn was what kind of matchups and rotations we may see going forward and how Coach Mike Krzyzewski wants to use a versatile roster. He has a roster so deep the bench might beat the starters, and he used that. He spent the night trying everything. The USA Started Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Tyson Chandler, LeBron James and Chris Paul, bringing Durant off the bench. Durant thrived in that role, scoring a team high 24. After the game Krzyzewski said they plan to stick with that for at least another game.
Coach K went mad scientist experimenting matchup experiments all game. He had LeBron James at center for a stretch (guarding Al Horford in the post) with Andre Iguodala at the four. He went big for a stretch in the third with Tyson Chandler at center and Kevin Love at the four. Even just called up Anthony Davis (here because of the injury to Blake Griffin) played eight minutes.
“I thought Iguodala, Carmelo and LeBron and Kevin (Durant) all played big, they all covered fours and fives,” Krzyzewski said. “And we have to get comfortable with that.
“I thought Iguodala played a great game. He shot the ball well. (Sixers coach) Doug Collins was saying ‘why don’t you do that for us all the time?’”
Going small like that worked against an overmatched Dominican Republic, but Krzyzewski admitted it will be a better test against a big Brazil team next week in an exhibition in Washington D.C.
Iguodala said with this roster they shouldn’t worry about traditional positions as much.
“You see that when we have certain lineups in there,” Iguodala said. “One lineup we had LeBron and KD, and I was guarding the four and KD was guarding the three, but on the offensive end we’re interchangeable. We just play basketball.
“The really interesting thing is when anyone gets the rebound that turns it a break… it’s crazy when we’re coming at you and pretty hard to stop when we are executing the right way.”
What Coach K liked was the intensity on defense, the communication on switches, the pressuring the ball for 94 feet and wearing the Dominican Republic down. He found a lineup he likes doing that and you can bet you’ll see it again.
“I like when we have those guys off the bench — (Russell) Westbrook, Iguodala, (James) Harden, LeBron stays out there and Deron Williams, I like how we pressure the ball,” Krzyzewski said.
He added that Williams played very well and you can expect him to get more minutes. Chris Paul played only 8 minutes because he is recovering from a thumb injury.
Krzyzewski said you can expect some more mad scientist over the next couple weeks, but he hopes to have a pretty set rotation by the time Team USA gets to London.