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.

Watch Bam Adebayo score 38, lift Heat to win over Wizards


MIAMI (AP) — Bam Adebayo scored a season-high 38 points and the Miami Heat beat the Washington Wizards 110-107 Friday night.

Caleb Martin added 20 points and Kyle Lowry finished with 13 points while Tyler Herro had 11 points and 10 assists for the Heat, who won their second straight at home against Washington after their 113-105 victory Wednesday.

Adebayo’s two free throws with 1:37 remaining put Miami ahead 105-104 lead then extended the advantage on a short jumper with 38 seconds left.

“It was one of those things where my teammates gave me the ball and I was taking advantage of the mismatch,” Adebayo said. “They were shots (Washington) let me have.”

Adebayo has scored in double digits in all 18 of his appearances this season. He’s had double-doubles in half of those games; Miami is 6-3 in those contests.

“He had a lot on his shoulders, really the last several games with a lot of different lineups and everything,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You need that stability from your leaders. I think at some point we’ll print up these shirts, `Mr. Reliable,’ and I’ll wear them, probably.”

Lowry also had eight assists, seven rebounds and a four-point play with 3:15 left for a 103-102 lead – the 11th of what would be 13 lead changes on the night.

And it was another close game for the Heat, who are already 4-3 in games decided by three points or less this season.

“That’s what’s happened really for, it seems like several weeks,” Spoelstra said. “It just feels like every single one of these games is going down to the last possession.”

The Wizards cut the deficit on Bradley Beal‘s dunk before Martin made two free throws with 12.5 seconds for the final margin, then hounded Beal defensively on the game’s last possession and forced the Wizards’ All-Star into a miss to end the contest.

“I take pride in trying to make stops,” Martin said. “Those are the types of situations you dream about, game on the line against a guy like Bradley Beal with the ball late shot clock. I just tried to make it as tough as possible.”

Beal and Kyle Kuzma finished with 28 points Kristaps Porzingis added 18 points for the Wizards.

“We did enough throughout the course of the game to put us in position to win,” said Beal, who returned from a one-game absence because of a quadriceps contusion. “We had several leads and ended up giving up those leads late. It was a matter of us getting stops at the defensive ends.”

Heat leading scorer Jimmy Butler (right knee soreness) missed his fifth straight game because of right knee soreness while shooters Max Strus (right shoulder impingement) and Duncan Robinson (left ankle sprain) also sat out.

The Heat rallied from a 12-point deficit late in the first quarter and cut it to 59-56 at halftime.

“Obviously, we had shots late that were makeable to keep them at bay,” Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. said.

Another Hornets injury: Hayward out indefinitely with fractured shoulder

Philadelphia 76ers v Charlotte Hornets
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The basketball gods have not been kind to the Hornets this season. LaMelo Ball missed the start of the season with a sprained ankle, got back and played just three games before re-injuring it by stepping on a fan’s foot while chasing a loose ball out of bounds. Miles Bridges will not be with the team. Cody Martin had his knee scoped and is out, and Dennis Smith Jr. is out with a sprained ankle — and that’s just the guys out right now.

Now add Gordon Hayward to the list. He is out indefinitely with a fractured shoulder. Shams Charania of The Athletic broke the news.

Hayward has a long history of injuries and has battled shoulder issues all season. There had been hope in Charlotte that he could stay healthy long enough to contribute to some wins and build up some potential trade interest (his name came up in Russell Westbrook scenarios, for example). In the 11 games he played, he averaged 16.3 points and shot 38.1% from 3. Of course, a trade was always a longshot because Hayward is owed a fully guaranteed $31.5 million next season, no team was taking that on without sweeteners.

With him injured, a trade is out of the question (other than part of a salary dump).

Kevin Durant says ‘it’s cool to see’ LeBron break all-time scoring record


LeBron James remains on target to break Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s NBA all-time scoring record, although with the games he has missed this season the target date now looks more like late February/early March.

Kevin Durant is excited to see it, as he told Nick Friedell of ESPN.

“To be the No. 1 in anything, there’s 8 billion people in the world, we just figured that out last week, so to be the No. 1 of all time at scoring the basketball, I’m sure it’s going to be a range of emotions for him,” Durant said at Friday’s shootaround, in advance of a game against the Indiana Pacers. “But to be in an era where we see this live is pretty cool as well. You probably can’t even describe the emotions and feelings him and his family and his friends are going to go through, but it’s cool to see it up close.”

Durant is currently 18th on that all-time scoring list (having just moved past Kevin Garnett), which is impressive in its own right even if he is not going to catch LeBron. LeBron’s feat has taken all of his 20 NBA seasons, and that is what impressed the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich.

“LeBron is taking care of himself so well that he’s been able to play a bundle of games for a lot of years. And that’s what he takes,” Popovich said before his Spurs took on the Lakers. “But he gets credit for taking care of himself and being able to be out there. The way a lot of players don’t even come close to. His commitment to the game and to what he has to do, has allowed him to be in this position.”

LeBron’s quest continues to generate a lot of buzz around the league. He just hopes it’s not the lone bright highlight out of this Lakers’ season, but his team has a lot of work to climb up to the postseason out of a 5-11 start.


Leonard, George both out for Clippers Friday, Jokic probable for Nuggets


When Kawhi Leonard returned and was put in the starting lineup, the Clippers said it was time to buckle down and truly start their season.

Instead, how about another round of injuries?

Paul Goerge is missing his third consecutive game with a hamstring tendon strain, while Leonard has a sprained right ankle and this is his second game out.

Adding to the troubling news for the Clippers in this game, Nikola Jokic is probable.

The Clippers won the first three games Leonard was back, and they have a ridiculous +31.7 net rating in the limited minutes that George and Leonard are on the court together. But the question heading into the season — even among those backing the Clippers to come out of the West (*raises hand*) — was whether would they stay healthy enough to live up to that potential? So far, the signs are not promising.

Yet, the Clippers are 11-8 despite the injuries and just a game back of the top-seeded Suns in a West where no team has run away with it. They are not out of it, but they must find a way to get their stars on the court together for an extended period.