Monday, July 22, 2024

Team USA men’s basketball cruises past Canada in first look before Paris Olympics

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LAS VEGAS — Team USA’s Olympic men’s basketball roster is an embarrassment of riches. Loaded with future Hall of Famers and NBA All-Stars, this group will enter the 2024 Paris Games as the heavy favorite to bring home their fifth consecutive gold medal. 

With former U.S. President Barack Obama sitting courtside, they showed why in an 86-72 win against Canada in an exhibition Wednesday at T-Mobile Arena. 

Anthony Edwards led the U.S. with 13 points on 6-for-10 shooting. Steph Curry added 12 points and hit three 3-pointers. Anthony Davis made his presence felt in the post with 10 points and 11 rebounds, while LeBron James had 7 points on 3-for-7 from the field. 

RJ Barrett paced Canada with 12 points and 5 rebounds. 

“It was a good first game for us,” U.S. coach Steve Kerr said. “We’re really just getting started — four days of practice. You could see the rust on the offensive end with a lot of turnovers in that first half especially. But I loved that defensive intensity and the work on the glass. It was a good first effort and we needed to set a tone for how we play and I think we did that.” 

The U.S. team took a bit to find their rhythm early on. Despite the incredible amount of talent on the floor, it was their first competitive game as a collective unit — and it showed.

Bad turnovers and missed shots allowed Canada to open the game up 11-1.

It wasn’t until Curry’s 3-pointer nearly five minutes into the matchup that they made a field goal attempt. Canada even led 21-14 after the first quarter.

But those struggles didn’t last long. The Americans started the second quarter on a 7-0 run and never looked back. Their second unit — led by Edwards and Davis — was a key factor in turning everything around. 

“It was a slow start, which wasn’t surprising given that we’re just getting started here, but I love the second group,” Kerr said. “Then the defense, picking up the pace for us in transition, made a few good plays there to really kind of jumpstart our offense and that got us into the game.”

USA Basketball, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary this summer, paid tribute to past legends by bringing out members of squads that won medals during a break in the action. Those on hand in Las Vegas included Patrick Ewing, John Stockton, Grant Hill, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony. 

Obama, who spoke with the team prior to the game, also received a loud cheer when he walked to his seat on the floor. 

Curry said the former president was “really inspiring with his words.” 

“It was cool to send us off into this journey celebrating 50 years of USAB and what we’re trying to do this summer,” Curry said. “I got goosebumps while he was talking. It makes you feel good about who you’re representing.”

The U.S. will begin their quest for another gold medal on July 28 against Serbia, which features former NBA MVP Nikola Jokić. Unlike Wednesday night, it’s not a matchup they can afford to start slowly.

James said that cohesion will come in time. 

“It’s easy to gel when you have one common goal, and our common goal is to play hard and win gold,” he said. “It shouldn’t take long.”

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