Kevin Durant, Team USA hold back Croatian sensation

08.29.10 8 years ago 27 Comments

What a difference Kobe and LeBron make. It’s not like Team USA needed any Redeem Team reinforcements on the court during its World Championship opener against Croatia — they blasted ’em 106-78, light work — but the lack of “star power” was noticeable in other ways. For starters, there was NOBODY in the stands; it looked like a mid-February Minnesota Timberwolves game. Second, well, here’s how Dime’s Austin Burton put it: “I called the nearest sports bar in Washington Heights (a legit place) to ask if they were showing the game. They had no idea what I was talking about. When I got there the bartender let me find ESPN Classic (on the smallest TV they had), and no one seemed interested but me. The re-run of yesterday’s Yankees game got more attention. One waiter said what I think a lot of people feel: ‘When all the big guys dropped out, I didn’t care anymore.'” … While the first quarter was close, Team USA went on a big run to start the second and effectively ended it there. Durant scored an easy 14 points working mostly on the perimeter — we’re thinking if he played full-time in the Croatian league he’d average 67 a night — and Eric Gordon led the U.S. with 16 points, hitting four triples. It would have been more competitive if they’d let Kevin Love (7 pts, 10 rebs) switch sides. Really, would you have noticed? He’s hairy enough to pass … And yes, finally, we got the Gay-Love connection. In the fourth quarter, Love hit Rudy Gay with a gorgeous outlet that Rudy caught in stride for a two-hand dunk without dribbling … But the highlight of garbage time was Russell Westbrook MURDERING Croatia’s Rok Stipcevic. Westbrook (10 pts) was losing him on crossovers, beasting him in the lane, and all Rok could do was try to foul. It was Drag Me To Hell, starring Rok Stipcevic … While Bojan Bogdanovic (big guy with the ratchet) led Croatia with 17 points and five threes, the headliner was Ante Tomic, the 23-year-old, 7-foot-2 Utah Jazz draftee who some consider the next Pau Gasol. Tomic finished with 12 points, 8 boards, 3 steals and 2 blocks, but he also turned the ball over 5 times and shot 4-for-10 from the field. He’s got some game, but we wouldn’t give him the Pau praise yet. Hopefully he’s not the next Skita … Fran Fraschilla is gonna be surprised the next time he watches a Nuggets game and Al Jefferson isn’t playing. Fran’s been saying for the last month that Jefferson was traded to the Nuggets, and nobody at ESPN has corrected him … Other highlights from Day 1 of the World Championship: Mickael Gelabale scored 16 to lead France in an upset win over Spain; Carlos Delfino‘s 27 points and 8 rebounds helped Argentina edge Germany; Yi Jianlian put up 26 points and 14 boards in China’s loss to Greece; Leandro Barbosa had 13 points in Brazil’s win over Iran; Linas Kleiza scored 27 to lead Lithuania past New Zealand; Ersan Ilyasova had 17 points and 8 boards in Turkey’s blowout of Ivory Coast; J.J. Barea‘s 25 points weren’t enough to get Puerto Rico past Russia; Goran Dragic dropped 16 and 8 dimes to lead Slovenia past Tunisia; Aleksandar Rasic scored 22 in Serbia’s rout of Angola; David Andersen had 22 points and 9 boards in Australia’s win over Jordan; and Lebanon’s Fadi “Buckets” El Khatib dropped 31 points on Canada in a win … Anybody watch the UFC card last night? The main event was B.J. Penn vs. Frank Edgar, but the mainstream attraction was future Hall of Fame boxer James Toney getting in the octagon with MMA legend Randy Couture. Not a good experience if you’re on the “boxing” side of the boxing vs. MMA debate, as Toney tapped out in three minutes. Of course it would have helped if Toney had bothered to learn to defend against submissions and not come in 20 pounds heavier than his already chunky fighting weight, but still not a good look for his sport. Then again, Couture is like 50 years old, so maybe it balances out … Midday tweet from Spencer Pratt: Paris Hilton arrested for Coke. In other shocking news — Earth is still round, & the sky is still blue. Forget the potential drug addiction; if you’re doing so bad in any area of life that Spencer Pratt can make fun of you, it’s time to reevaluate things and get some help … We’re out like Stipcevic …

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