Monday, July 15, 2024

4 takeaways as USA Basketball blows out Canada in exhibition

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USA Basketball’s run to the Paris Olympics is officially off and running. Before the games start to matter, though, the U.S. men’s national team has a flurry of exhibition games before Paris. To start off, the Americans blew out Canada 86-72 in Las Vegas in their exhibition opener, overcoming a slow start.

The U.S. squad was disjointed to start the game, missing its first six shots and finding itself down 11-1 to the Canadians. But the Americans quickly settled down from there, holding a 41-33 halftime lead. The U.S. cruised to the win, wrapping up its short stay in Las Vegas.

Notably, USA Basketball was a bit shorthanded as Kevin Durant nurses a calf injury. Derrick White also didn’t play since he was just added to the 12-man roster, replacing Kawhi Leonard. But those two should be on the court as the team now heads to Abu Dhabi.

USA Basketball was led by Anthony Edwards, who scored 13 points as he was unafraid to take shots playing with some of the game’s best players. Stephen Curry put up 12 points himself as he caught fire to start the third quarter. Anthony Davis also added 10 points and 11 rebounds. For the Canadians, they were led by RJ Barrett, who put up 12 points and five rebounds, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who had 10 points. The Americans did finish with 15 turnovers, so they’ll look to clean that up as they develop more chemistry.

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The Americans have four more exhibition games on the schedule ahead of heading to Paris. They play Australia on July 15 then Serbia on July 17, with both those games in Abu Dhabi. Then they take on South Sudan on July 20 then Germany on July 22, with those games being played in London. So it’s a busy schedule ahead of the actual Olympics, which opens July 28 against Serbia.

Here are four takeaways from USA Basketball’s opening win over Canada:

Defense steps up: While it’s still early for everyone, it was clear the Americans had some juice behind their roster. Their defense shined as Canada shot 33.8% from the field, resulting in the 72 points. USA Basketball’s size upfront will be one of its biggest strengths, which the big men showed off in the game. So that’s a positive as the Americans will continue to gel going forward from this exhibition opener.

Celtics shine: There are only so many shots to go around in the shortened international game, but the Celtics players in Jayson Tatum and Jrue Holiday had their moments throughout the game. Tatum finished with eight points and two assists in his 17 minutes. Holiday put up 11 points, five rebounds, four assists and two blocks in 20 minutes as he also had multiple impressive defensive plays.

Slight surprise: Considering the talent level, multiple All-Stars would have to come off the bench for the Americans. But it was still slightly unexpected to see Tatum coming off the bench. USA coach Steve Kerr elected to go with a starting lineup of Holiday, Devin Booker, Stephen Curry, LeBron James and Joel Embiid. Kerr and his coaching staff could still shake up the starting lineup, so that’s something to monitor.

Forgettable debut: Embiid got the start for the Americans, but it was a tough debut on this stage for the big man. He fouled out in the third quarter, finishing with five points, six rebounds, two assists and four turnovers in his 12 minutes. Embiid looked a bit slow out there, but it’s just the first game, so he’ll look to have a bounce-back performance.

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