DimeMag

The USA Men Closed Out Their Exhibition Games With An Impressive Win Over Spain

Things did not get off to a good start for either the men or women when USA Basketball camp began, as both teams lost their first two games in Las Vegas as they tuned up for the Tokyo Olympics. The women dropped games to the WNBA All-Stars and Australia, but righted the ship with a dominant win against Nigeria on Sunday.

The men lost to Nigeria and Australia, while also dealing with COVID issues with Bradley Beal having to be replaced and their second game with the Aussies being cancelled for precautions. After replacing Beal (and Kevin Love who withdrew with lingering calf issues) with Keldon Johnson and JaVale McGee, the USA men arrived to Sunday’s game with Spain with plenty of questions and a stern test in their final exhibition game.

Early on, it looked as though some of the same issues would cause problems for the Americans again, as Spain punished their lack of size inside and on the glass and the USA offense struggled as they stagnated far too often, trailing 18-14 after one period of play. However, as the game wore on they started to find their rhythm and, late in the third quarter, the floodgates opened as they darted ahead to take a comfortable lead they would never give back.

The catalyst for the USA run in the third was Keldon Johnson, who had 10 of his 15 points in the third, showing his value to an American side loaded with creators as a terrific cutter and mover off the ball.

In the fourth quarter, they continued to push the pace and move the ball, something that they are going to have to do given their lack of size and the physicality allowed in the international game, with Zach LaVine and Damian Lillard leading the way down the stretch as Team USA kept Spain at a distance, ultimately getting an 83-76 win to send them off to Tokyo on a positive note.

It wasn’t a tremendous offensive performance from Team USA, shooting 43.1 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from three, but the signs of life in the second half were welcome sights after how things started in Las Vegas. Still, the ball moved much better than it had been early on in camp, with Damian Lillard not just leading the team with 19 points, but seemingly taking over the lead distributor role with six assists — Jayson Tatum also had five dimes and Bam Adebayo had four as Team USA appears to be figuring out the team basketball aspect of things as they grow more comfortable together.

More impressive was their defensive effort, as they seemed to ratchet things up on that end and embrace the physicality of this game, applying lots of ball pressure and being very active in rotations and jumping passing lanes to force 20 turnovers that allowed them to get out and run. Reinforcements are still to come in the form of Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton, and Devin Booker whenever the Finals end, and they’ll have to figure out how to work those three into the rotation, but for now, the team has to be feeling much better as they get set to fly off to Japan.

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