Anthony Davis, Teemu Rannikko

USA cruises past Finland in World Cup opener, 114-55


Well, the crowd from Finland was impressive — roughly 8,000 Finnish fans cheering on their team.

But it gets really quiet when 8,000 people go silent.

That happened in the second quarter when Finland shot 0-of-17 from the floor and the USA won the quarter 29-2 on their way to the expected thrashing of Finland in both team’s World Cup openers, 114-55. The USA shot 58.9 percent for the game, compared to 27.7 percent for Finland, which could not deal with the American’s defensive pressure.

Next up for the USA is Turkey on Sunday (ESPN 3:30 pm). That’s a rematch of the 2010 World Championship finals, but Turkey is a shell of that former team.

Saturday Klay Thompson scored 18 points and Anthony Davis had 17 to lead the USA. Every USA player got double-digit minutes and scored. DeMarcus Cousins came off the bench to grab 10 rebounds.

Among the bright spots for the USA was Derrick Rose looked the best he has since the Chicago exhibition game, scoring 12 points and having a couple vintage Rose drives. Rudy Gay also added 10 points.

FIBA is the world’s 39th ranked team and the lowest ranked team ever to get invited to the World Cup via a FIBA “wild card” invite. It showed on the court as the team started 0-of-13 from three and were down 31-16 after the first quarter — and that was Finland’s best quarter.

Finland is here because their fans travel well (good gate revenue for FIBA) and because Finnish company Rovio— you know them as the maker of the Angry Birds game, — offered FIBA free advertising. FIBA likes its money.

The fans seemed to enjoy themselves… for a quarter, anyway.

For the USA this was a nice start, but things get a little more serious on Sunday, against Omer Asik and the rest of the Turkish team. That still should be a comfortable USA win, but not quite Finland comfortable.

Kings pick up option on G Ben McLemore

Ben McLemore, Rodney Hood
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) The Sacramento have picked up the 2016-17 option on guard Ben McLemore‘s contract.

General manager Vlade Divac announced the move Saturday.

McLemore was Sacramento’s first-round pick in 2013. He averaged 12.1 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists last season.

Paul George reiterates “I don’t know if I’m cut out for a four spot”

Paul George

In the Pacers first exhibition game of the season Saturday against the Pelicans, Paul George started at the power forward spot and looked healthy — that should be the big takeaway. He also showed off his offensive game in the first quarter, eventually finishing the night with 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting. He forced some shots in the second half and had some defensive challenges, but it was a solid outing for a first preseason game.

George did not see it that way, and that will end up being the big takeaway.

He complained about playing power forward during training camp and given the chance after this one game he did it again, as reported by Candace Buckner of the Indy Star.

“I don’t know if I’m cut out for a four spot,” George said after the Pacers’ 110-105 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, a game in which he started matched up against 6-foot-11 All-Star Anthony Davis.

“I don’t know if this is my position. We’ll sit and watch tape and I’m sure I’ll talk with coach (Frank Vogel). I’ll talk with Larry (Bird) as well to get both their inputs on how the first game went but…I’m still not comfortable with it regardless of the situation. It’s still something I have to adjust to or maybe not. Or maybe it’s something we can go away from.”

George sees himself as a wing, where he has played his entire career. He doesn’t like defending traditional fours, as a scorer he doesn’t like expending all that energy defending pick-and-rolls and banging with bigger bodies. He’s been clear about that.

He still needs to be open to the idea. How much time George gets at the four on any given night should depend on the matchup — and Anthony Davis is about as rough a matchup as he is going to see. Davis scored 18 points in 15 minutes, and the Pelicans controlled the paint against the small-ball Pacers. George had a hard time defending Davis — welcome to a rather large club, PG. That said, George scored 12 points in the first quarter mostly with Davis on him, he pulled the big out in space and got what he wanted.

Back to the matchups point, George will struggle defensively against the best fours in the game (most of whom are in the West). But what about the nights in the East when George would be matched up on Thaddeus Young from Brooklyn, Jared Sullinger (or David Lee, or whoever) from Boston, or Aaron Gordon with the Magic, or Carmelo Anthony with the Knicks when they play small? There are a lot of lineups the Pacers will see where George at the four makes sense.

The Pacers are transitioning from a plodding and defensive-minded squad to a more up-tempo style, and that’s going to take time— a lot more than one preseason game. However, if George is throwing cold water on the plan after this one effort, it might take a lot longer and be a lot bumpier to make that transition than we pictured.