Durant's friendly international waters
Team USA's arc accuracy helps make a lark of Olympic tune-up over D.R.
As the first American off the bench, Durant scored 24 points on 9-for-11 shooting from the field, and grabbed 10 rebounds. He was simply the perfect version of himself -- all arms, legs and marksmanship.
Want to bring a smile to Durant's face? Just ask him about those extra 19 inches that turn a long NBA 2-pointer into a FIBA 3-pointer.
"Man," Durant said as he laughed. "It's closer. The NBA 3 -- once you get up to that line, it's far. Playing FIBA, it's close. Hopefully, I'll make some more over there [in London]."
While Durant was a lock to make Team USA this summer, Andre Iguodala was far from a shoo-in. The Sixers forward snagged one of the final three spots last Saturday, touted for his defensive versatility.
On Thursday night, Iguodala proved his worth -- on both ends. On a roster populated by freakish athletes, Iguodala looked the freakiest of all. He scored 18 points, going 7-for-9 from the field. Like Durant, Iguodala was also helped by the more generous international 3-point shot as he drilled 4 of 6 from downtown.
As advertised, Iguodala dogged the Dominicans all night -- deflections, steals, entry passes that never materialized because his long limbs plugged the lanes. When necessary, he raced from perimeter to paint, switched out for the point guards and generally caused mischief.
"It's something Coach [Mike Krzyzewski] talked about in one of the meetings," Iguodala said. "He wanted guys to have two different types of egos. One ego is going out there and representing your country. Then have the ego of your role. My role is defense."
Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski emphasized that defense would be vital against the stiffer competition Team USA will encounter in London.
"We're going to try to play pressure defense," Krzyzewski said. "If we fall back, we're just giving people rest and the ability to come down and use more seconds to attack us."
As one of the best wing defenders in the game, Iguodala frequently finds himself defending the point in crucial possessions as a member of the 76ers. Given the premium Krzyzewski is placing on ball pressure and Iguodala's aforementioned role, it's highly likely the forward will log important minutes in key spots.
Considering the collection of talent Team USA managing director Jerry Colangelo has assembled, it's not unreasonable to expect ego to surface at times, especially during a game whose outcome was determined when the team buses arrived at the Thomas & Mack Center. We see this alpha behavior routinely in NBA All-Star Games.
Whether it's Krzyzewski's gravitas, the collective maturity of the roster or a patriotic instinct, there were no such displays on Thursday night. The ball popped around the perimeter, as Team USA relied on heavy doses of 4-out/1-in offense. The choreography might not have been complex, but the movements were pleasing to the eye.
As the Americans took control early, the friendly became a parlor of game of "What's your favorite lineup?"
Are you a classicist who likes the starters (Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Tyson Chandler)? Or the more unorthodox small-ball, dual-point-guard combination of Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook, along with Durant, Iguodala and James?
The correct answer on Thursday night was all of the above. Team USA wasn't composed of bigs and smalls, perimeter snipers or pivot men. Everyone was simply a basketball player.
"In the offensive game, we're interchangeable," Iguodala said. "We just play basketball."
Despite Blake Griffin's knee injury hanging over Team USA, there was plenty of levity. A missed breakaway dunk by Russell Westbrook in the third quarter drew howls from his teammates on the USA bench. Leading by more than 30 points, the normally edgy Westbrook just laughed it off.
And when James Harden, with less than a second remaining in the third quarter, heaved the ball in the air 30 feet from the basket, there was a round of giggles from his teammates, no doubt celebrating what the less charitable would call Harden's signature flop.
Griffin's replacement, Anthony Davis, saw some action down the stretch and scored nine points in 10 minutes. He drew a huge roar from the crowd when he hit a 3-pointer despite being fouled.
Splayed out on the ground, who was there to pick Davis up?
The world's two best basketball players: James and Durant, each grabbing a hand.
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2012 NBA Offseason
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