When training camp started a month ago, Eric Gordon was a longshot to make the United States national team. But with each passing scrimmage and exhibition game, it became more and more evident that the L.A. Clippers guard had the perfect game to play against international competition.
Gordon made it extremely difficult for team officials to cut him, and he has rewarded head coach Mike Krzyzewski and USA Basketball president Jerry Colangelo with some really games the last couple of weeks. Gordon led the Americans with 16 points off the bench and made four 3-point shots in Team USA’s 106-78 victory over Croatia in Saturday’s opener at the FIBA World Championship in Istanbul, Turkey.
After a slow start in the first quarter when Croatia trailed by only two at 22-20, the Americans began to pull away, using a 12-0 run that was spearheaded by Gordon and Kevin Durant. Durant, who finished with 14 points, buried a 3-pointer to start the quarter and then Gordon’s back-to-back 3-pointers gave the U.S. a 14-point cushion.
The U.S. outscored Croatia, 26-6, in the second quarter.
Gordon was 4-for-6 from behind the 3-point line, which is 3 feet shorter than the NBA line. The U.S. shot 55% from the field and converted 12 of 30 3-pointers. Chauncey Billups, who started the game along with Derrick Rose, Durant, Andre Iguodala and Lamar Odom, finished with 12 points. Russell Westbrook and Rudy Gay each had 10 points off the bench. Kevin Love led the U.S. in rebounds with 10 in just 13 minutes.
Even though the U.S. fields a team with only one legitimate center (Tyson Chandler), the lack of size didn’t affect them too much against the Croatians, who were led by Bojan Bogdanovic (17 points), Marko Popovic (16) and Ante Tomic (12).
Tomic, who stands 7 feet 1, showed some decent low-post moves and could be a decent center in the NBA. The 23-year-old currently plays for Real Madrid in the Euroleague.