Kurt Helin

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It wasn’t pretty early, but USA pulls away for 113-69 win over Venezuela

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Venezuela had the blueprint.

They didn’t have near the talent to execute it for 40 minutes.

Venezuela slowed the game down, mucked it up, got to the free throw line, was aided by some sloppy USA play for stretches, and made this game much closer than the 50-point Las Vegas line most of the night.

But the USA talent eventually overwhelmed. As it always does. Behind 20 points from Paul George and 16 from Kevin Durant, the USA won the final three quarters 95-51, shot 55 percent from the field, and got their second win in Rio, 113-69. The USA dominated the second and fourth quarters, winning those 68-26. That was your ballgame.

“We just had to change the game, we had to adapt and adjust to how this game was going,” George said in a televised postgame interview. “This is a different game, we’re still getting used to it. I thought they came out and they played great. Everything was about them. We really had to pick it up and I thought we did a great job.

“We really had to do a great job in the second quarter. I thought KD, Kyrie (Irving) and (Carmelo Anthony) was the front runners in switching this game around. We got ourselves back into it and we just kept our foot on the pedal.”

The USA is now 2-0 in pool play, but they have beaten the two teams not expected to advance to the knockout stage. The USA needs to play better in its next game Wednesday against a talented Australian team — Andrew Bogut, Patty Mills, Matthew Dellavedova — that has upset France and Serbia so far.Australia is looking like a team that could medal. The Boomers will be ready to make a statement, and if the USA is this sloppy it could happen. (The game can be seen at 6 p.m. Eastern on NBC Sports Network.)

Monday’s blowout was interesting early.

It was 18-18 after one quarter, and Venezuela led a couple of times. It wasn’t shooting, the USA was 7-of-15 in the first. A few things slowed the USA early. One was that it was a very tightly called game, leading to foul trouble for Cousins (he eventually fouled out in nine minutes of play) and Thompson, which allowed Venezuela to get to the line (10 first quarter free throws). Another was the slick FIBA ball used in international play led to several of the six first-quarter turnovers as the ball slipped out of Draymond Green‘s and other’s hands.

But mostly it was Venezuela executing their game plan — slow the game down. Venezuela used up most of the shot clock, crashed the offensive glass, got back on defense, and if it looked like there was a USA break they would foul the US ball handler out by midcourt. Anything to slow the game down to a grind.

It worked. For a while.

The USA started to pull away in the second quarter when Carmelo Anthony began to make plays. He stripped a Venezuelan big inside, got the ball to Kyrie Irving on the break, then ran the floor and got the kickoff from Irving for three. Soon after, Anthony isolated on his defender and drew the foul. It was all part of a 9-0 USA run that started the onslaught. The USA was not getting much in transition, but they started to do better attacking the rim in the halfcourt. That opened up the three ball, and then the buckets started falling.

The USA won the second quarter 30-8. And it was all but over.

The USA didn’t blow the game wide open until the fourth quarter, the USA was up “just” 24 at 75-51 after three. But in the fourth it became up-and-down garbage time, and the USA pulled away for another comfortable win.

Jimmy Butler had 17 for the USA, while DeAndre Jordan and Carmelo Anthony each had 14. Anthony passed Michael Jordan in the second quarter to move into third on the USA’s all-time Olympic scoring list.

One interesting note, Harrison Barnes was the guy who didn’t play until garbage time.

Carmelo Anthony passes Michael Jordan on USA Olympic scoring list, will top it by end of Games

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With a second quarter bucket — when he led a USA explosion that blew the game open against Venezuela — Carmelo Anthony racked up his 258th career Olympics point for USA Basketball.

That pushed him past Michael Jordan for third all time on that scoring list.

Anthony has played in far more games than Jordan, but it speaks to how ‘Melo’s game blossom’s on the international stage. ‘Melo’s size and ability to hit the three make him nearly unguardable internationally, especially when teams can’t focus on him because of the amazing teammates (in this case Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving and others).

In the USA’s next game against Australia, ‘Melo will likely pass David Robinson and move into second on the all-time list.

LeBron James has scored the most points in the Olympics for Team USA at 273. Anthony should pass that by the time the Rio Olympics are over.

It will be part of ‘Melo’s Hall of Fame legacy when his days playing end.

Memphis Grizzlies sign Wroten, Williams, Selden, Stephens

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) The Memphis Grizzlies have signed guard Tony Wroten, forward Troy Williams and guard/forwards Wayne Selden Jr. and D.J. Stephens.

The Grizzlies announced each of the four signings Monday. Terms of the deals weren’t disclosed.

Wroten, 23, has appeared in 145 career games with the Grizzlies and Philadelphia 76ers over the last four seasons. He played eight games for Philadelphia this past season.

Stephens (STEF-ens) spent this past season with the NBA Development League’s Canton Charge and Iowa Energy. He played collegiately at Memphis and was undrafted in 2013.

Selden and Williams both went undrafted this year. Selden averaged 13.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists for Kansas as a junior in 2015-16. Williams averaged 13.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2 assists for Indiana as a junior this past season.

LeBron’s new championship hat is none of my business (or yours)

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LeBron James answered his numerous critics with the Kermit the Frog “none of my business” meme after the NBA Finals, wearing a hat with it while hugging the Larry O’Brien trophy.

He’s not done with that meme yet — but now the trophy has gotten involved.

Just wait for his line to be selling those hats soon — and selling out of those not long after.

LeBron has earned the right to brag — he played as good a Finals by one player as you are ever going to see, led his team from down 3-1 to a title, and ended Cleveland’s 52-year title drought. If he doesn’t feel like being humble, he shouldn’t be.

Report: NBA’s Christmas Day schedule highlighted by Warriors vs. Cavaliers Finals rematch

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Christmas Day is the NBA’s biggest regular-season showcase — the league has the sports calendar largely to itself, and the league breaks out its brightest stars and best teams. So you had to know this was coming:

Golden State and Cleveland will face off in the prime time spot Christmas Day.

That according to Mark Stein of ESPN.

Sources say the centerpiece of the league’s annual Christmas Day schedule, meanwhile, is a rematch of the NBA Finals and a repeat of the Warriors-Cleveland Cavaliers showdown from last Christmas.

But this Dec. 25 meeting, sources say, is scheduled to happen in Cleveland, allowing the reigning champion Cavaliers to spend the holiday at home. Last Christmas, Golden State was the home team as defending champion.

These are the two biggest draws in the NBA — they have faced off in the last two Finals with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and now Kevin Durant. The difference now is a lot of fans will be rooting against Durant and the Warriors, no matter what Steve Kerr thinks.

This was the obvious call, what will be interesting is to see what other teams will be playing on Christmas. I would expect the Spurs, Clippers, maybe the Raptors, but after that the league can go in a lot of different directions.

Also, Durant will head back to Oklahoma City Feb. 11.