Team USA had one more tune up at home before heading to Europe for a three-game exhibition tour prior to starting the World Championships on August 28th against Croatia.
Prior to the United States exhibition against France at Madison Square Garden on Sunday afternoon, it was announced that the team had trimmed its roster down to thirteen guys with Jeff Green and JaVale McGee being cut. The team still must make one additional cut before the start of the World Championships.
The USA got off to a rough start against France and saw the first quarter buzzer sound with the game deadlocked at 16. They shot just 37.5% and committed five turnovers in that first period, which allowed the French team to keep the game tied.
The game remained close at the half as the United States lead by only nine points, 39-30. Early in the 3rd, France trimmed the United States lead to only seven points, before the wily old veteran Chauncey Billups took over and gave the team some cushion. Billups hit two early three’s in the 3rd and had another three point play that pushed the USA lead up to 55-36 with five minutes remaining in the 3rd.
After that the United States was pretty much on cruise control as they went on to beat France 86-55.
Rudy Gay was the leading scorer on Sunday with 19 points and he really put the game completely away early in the 4th quarter with two strong dunks that gave the USA a 70-46 edge.
Chauncey Billups was a big difference maker on Sunday as he scored 17 points and helped the US to get away from the pesky French team that stuck around until Billups keyed a 16-4 run early on in the third quarter.
Billups keyed the third quarter run
Kevin Durant added 14 points and 8 rebounds after having a poor start from the floor where he missed his first five shot attempts of the afternoon.
Boris Diaw was the leading scorer for France with 15 points.
The United States will now leave for Madrid on Monday as they begin a tough three game stretch of exhibition games to gear up for the start of the World Championships.
Saturday will see Team USA open that tough three game stretch as they face off against Lithuania in Madrid, Spain. They will stay in Madrid to play against their biggest competition in my opinion in the World Championships. They will play Spain on Spanish soil next Sunday.
They wrap up their exhibition tour on August 25th when they head to Athens for a game against Greece, another team that should be tough competition for the red, white, and blue.
France and Greece may be the toughest hurdle for the United States at the World Championships and they get a chance to face both of them in exhibitions.
Don’t expect Mike Krzyzewski to make a decision on who will be the final cut from this team until the team finishes up their three remaining exhibitions and heads to Istanbul to gear up for Croatia.
Eric Gordon, Russell Westbrook, and Kevin Love seem to be on the chopping block for that final cut and if I had to guess, I would say Westbrook would be the final cut made by Coach K.
Chauncey Billups, Kevin Durant, Tyson Chandler, Rajon Rondo, and Andre Inguodala were the starters for Team USA as they went with the small lineup which we will see in the tournament as well.
I like the lineup, but I would like to see Rudy Gay starting as well, maybe over Billups or Inguodala. I’d like to see Iggy remain starting, because he’s probably the best on ball defender on the team. But, Gay’s still set is perfectly suited for international play and I think he is going to have a big tournament regardless of whether he is starting or not.
Like I stated yesterday, I’m not convinced that the speed lineup will work against a team like Spain or Greece. For better or worse, that is the kind of lineup Coach K is going with and we will get a good look in the exhibitions to come whether this team can stack up against those powers and reclaim World Championships glory.