USA handily beats Tunisia but doesn’t earn many style points

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Every time the 2012 Team USA steps on the court they face two opponents. First, it’s the team lined up in the other colored jerseys. Second, there is the USA Basketball legacy — the 1960 team of West and Robertson, the Dream Team and beyond — and how they measure up.

Team USA beat Tunisia 110-63 thanks to a monster 39 point third quarter Thursday at the London Olympics. The USA is now the only 2-0 in Group A play and controls their own destiny.

But in the style-points battle with legacy the Dream Team and history got the win. Not that this current team really cares much about it, but games like this give their doubters (in terms of this team’s legacy) fuel.

That’s because Team USA started out with some lethargic play and struggled in the first half to put away a vastly inferior Tunisian team. Tunisia opened the game up 8-4 and had a 13-12 lead more than seven minutes into contest. It happened in part because USA again was cold from the outside —they started 0-8 from three. And the USA’s defense was passive. This was a Tunisian team that scored 15 points in the entire first half against Nigeria and equaled that inside eight minutes against USA.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski had seen enough, subbed out all five starters at once (hockey style) late in the first to try and change defensive energy. It worked. The USA went on a 12-0 run. In fact it worked so well that Coach K started that unit for the second half.

Let’s give some credit to Tunisia — they are feisty and hung around. They actually got the lead down to five in the second quarter before USA went on 11-0 run. USA was up 46-33 at the half — it was the least impressive 13-point lead in the history of basketball.

Team USA’s second unit started the second half on a 23-3 run and the USA made a run at the 54-point spread that Las Vegas had on the game. Team USA shot 15-of-18 in the third quarter, they were 10-of-17 from three after the first quarter and blew the game wide open. That included Anthony Davis getting lob after lob for dunks from teammates.

The USA outscored Tunisia by 34 in the second half and the rout we all expected was on.

The only scary moment of the second half was when Kevin Love drove the lane and had some knee-on-knee contact with a Tunisian big man, which had Love limping to the sidelines. However, it was more of a just a bruise, he was moving fine a few minutes later and when Anthony Davis had a beautiful dunk he was leaping out of his seat cheering like he was just fine. He returned to the game in the fourth quarter.

Tunisia was led by Macram Ben Romdhane who had 22 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists.

The USA had six guys in double figures with Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Love leading the way with 16 points. Anthony Davis had 12 points on a perfect 5-for-5 shooting night.

It ended up being a laugher and the USA got the win they expected. It may not have lived up to the impossible standards of how we view the Dream Team through rose-colored glasses, but that doesn’t really matter in the end. This team will let the old guys have the win on style points and they will take this one, which moves them one step closer to their goal of a gold medal.

Next up for the USA is a slightly tougher test against Nigeria on Thursday. But only slightly.

David Blatt’s troll on the Cavaliers backfires when opponent scores 151 (VIDEO)

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David Blatt, perhaps sensing his time to pounce as rumors swirl around Tyronn Lue’s departure, decided to troll the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday. It did not go so well.

Blatt, who was fired from the head coaching spot in Cleveland in 2015, now heads Darüşşafaka S.K. in the Turkish Super League. Coaching Team Europe vs. Team Asia in the Turkish BSL All-Star Game, Blatt joked during a TV interview that he was just hoping his team didn’t give up as many points as the Cavaliers did to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday. That game ended with a score of 148-124.

Via Twitter:

So what happened to Blatt’s Team Europe in the All-Star Game?

According to Erik Gundersen over at LeBron Wire, Team Europe promptly got rolled on with a tally of … 151 points.

The final total in the Turkish All-Star matchup was 151-142 in favor of Team Asia.

Oops.

Salah Mejri threatened to come to Blazers locker room after Jusuf Nurkic tussle

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The Portland Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks had a game of many emotions on Saturday night at Moda Center. Of course, the game wasn’t that close — Portland led by 17 at the half and finished the game by beating Dallas, 117-108.

But as we’ve seen in the NBA recently, the propensity for NBA players to get into physical spats is high. So it was no surprise that we saw yet another scrum between NBA players on the east side of the Willamette on Saturday as Dallas’ Salah Mejri got tangled up with Jusuf Nurkic and Evan Turner.

The play began with Nurkic getting a clean block on Mejri. Because of the position of the two players, Nurkic’s arm was angled as such that after the block it came clean through to rest on Mejri’s shoulder. Mejri turned, and the whole thing became a tangle of arms and elbows.

Neither Mejri or Nurkic took kindly to that, so the two squared off. Nurkic gave Mejri an ineffectual little push, while Portland’s Evan Turner jumped in to hold Mejri back. The Mavericks center promptly flopped all the way to the ground, inexplicably grabbing his face. It was Premier League-level flopping from Mejri, just top notch stuff.

Via NBC Sports Northwest:

After the game, Turner told media that Mejri threatened to come get the Blazers.

“He’s like ‘I’ll come to the locker room!'” said Turner. “Out of a 225 lb. dude [Turner] a 275 lb. dude [Nurkic] and a 7-footer [Mejri] who hit the ground?”

Portland’s CJ McCollum didn’t seem too impressed with the threat.

“If they really want to fight, they know where to find people,” said McCollum.

Much like any arena, the visiting locker room is just down the hall from the home squad at Moda Center, so it would have been easy for Mejri to get to. Nothing happened, so it turned out as an empty threat.

Meanwhile, Turner was assessed a technical foul for the tussle — presumably for “pushing” Mejri. There was notable tension the rest of the game between Mejri, Nurkic, and the crowd at Moda Center, but nothing else of consequence happened.

LeBron James: “We could easily get bounced early in the playoffs”

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Cleveland’s defense was pathetic Saturday and the Thunder routed them because of it. The Cavaliers gave up 148 points, allowed the Thunder to shoot 58 percent, and basically were little more than traffic cones for Russell Westbrook, Paul George and the rest of the Thunder to dribble and pass around. The Cavaliers have lost 8-of-11 and coach Tyronn Lue’s seat is getting warm.

Can the Cavaliers even get out of the East? LeBron James wasn’t even asking that question after the Saturday loss, he wants his team to get to the conference finals first. Via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“Playoffs? We can’t even start thinking about that, not the way we’re playing right now,” James said. “We could easily get bounced early in the playoffs if they started next weekend. Haven’t even began thinking about the postseason.”

It’s January, it’s far too early to write LeBron and the Cavaliers off — his teams have won the East for seven straight seasons in a row for a reason. Cleveland’s mid-season malaise is a thing and they snap out of it, Isaiah Thomas will find his legs and play better, but this season has shown some troubling structural flaws in the Cavaliers. Ones that could bite them in the playoffs. Ones they are active in the trade market trying to address, or at least shore up a little.

Nobody around the league is comfortable picking against a LeBron team in the East — he has been to seven straight Finals for a reason (and how impressive an achievement that is gets overlooked). But this seems to be the weakest LeBron team since he bolted Cleveland (the first time?), and a second-round matchup vs. Toronto is no gimme anymore. LeBron is right to be concerned.

Former LSU star, Trail Blazer Tim Quarterman arrested after leading police on high-speed chase

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If you missed Tim Quarterman’s cup of coffee in the NBA nobody can blame you. The 6’6″ point guard was a star at LSU who went undrafted but got a chance to earn a roster spot in Portland. He bounced between the NBA and D-League last season playing in 16 games for the Trail Blazers, but then this summer was traded to Houston for cash, and the Rockets quickly waived him. He had signed to play in China but never got there due to visa issues, he did not play a game there.

Now he has some big trouble stateside. From Tupelo, Miss., television station WTVA (hat tip to the Times-Picayune):

Master Sgt. Ray Hall with the Mississippi Highway Patrol says the incident began sometime near 10:50 p.m. when troopers attempted to stop a 2018 Dodge Ram pickup truck for traveling eastbound on Highway 278 at a high rate of speed.

Quarterman failed to stop and led officers on the pursuit… The Mississippi Highway Patrol says the pursuit ended near (a family’s) home when Quarterman intentionally rammed a Pontotoc police officer causing both vehicles to crash.

Both Quarterman and the police officer were taken to a local hospital with minor injuries.

This led to charges of aggravated assault and felony fleeing, according to the report.