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.