Team USA trails at the half, then pulls away for 98-77 win over Turkey at FIBA World Cup

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Team USA has by far the most individual talent in FIBA World Cup play, but a collection of All-Stars can struggle at times against teams that have had the luxury of playing together for years.

That’s what we saw for much of the first half of USA’s 98-77 win over Turkey on the second day of World Cup action.

The team from Turkey imposed its will over the game’s first 20 minutes, and took a five-point lead into the half by using zone defenses and hitting three-pointers at a high percentage, while USA struggled with turnovers and couldn’t seem to knock down open shots.

Both Derrick Rose and Kyrie Irving struggled in a playmaking capacity in the first half, and neither seemed to be able to consistently beat the zone by making the right choices. On the other end of the floor, Turkey slowed the pace to a crawl, and often made USA defend for all 24 seconds of the shot clock, while scoring on enough of those possessions to prevent USA from doing what it does best, which is pushing the tempo and getting out to easy scores in transition.

Eventually, USA matched the effort of the Turkish squad, and led by Kenneth Faried, managed to blow the game open with some active defensive pressure. Faried finished with 22 points on 11-of-14 shooting, to go along with eight rebounds and a few steals. Anthony Davis also got loose on the offensive end, and finished with 19 points of his own.

Derrick Rose wasn’t great in his second straight day of on-court action, and whether due to conditioning or still shaking the rust off, he simply was below average. Rose finished 0-of-4 from the field with two fouls and two turnovers, and was noticeably frustrated with his first half performance.

USA had too much talent, and it all came together for them eventually. But Turkey may have given other teams in this tournament a blueprint of how to take down the heavy favorites: slow the tempo to prevent easy points in transition, play some junk defenses which force playmaking and decision-making in unfamiliar situations, and hope that the shots from beyond the arc fall at a low percentage.

But even if all that happens, if it only continues for half of the game, you’ll still end up losing by 21 points.

Nets’ national anthem singer kneels to finish performance

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NEW YORK (AP)—  The national anthem singer at the Brooklyn Nets’ home opener took a knee at the end of her performance.

Justine Skye was nearing the completion of the song Friday night when she went to one knee for the finish. There were some cheers, but appeared to be more boos from the crowd at Barclays Center to see the Nets play the Orlando Magic.

NBA players have continued to stand during the playing of the anthems, as required by league rule.

Mavericks’ rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr. misses game with knee swelling

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DALLAS (AP) — Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. missed Friday’s game against the Sacramento Kings with swelling in his left knee.

Smith, the ninth pick in the NBA draft out of North Carolina State, had 16 points and 10 assists in the Mavericks’ season-opening loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Smith participated in the Mavericks’ shootaround on Friday morning and was a late scratch. It is not known if Smith will play Saturday for Dallas.

The Mavericks were also missing guard Devin Harris, who was granted leave of absence after his brother died on Thursday.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?