Rose in a flash in USA 114-55 win


Aug 30

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We forget sometimes these days because it’s basically been so long. But there’s nothing like Derrick Rose blowing past a defender and power dunking, like he did early in Saturday’s USA 114-55 victory over Finland to open the FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain.

There’s certainly no one on the USA Basketball team as fast as Rose, and when Rose is in high gear like that there are few in the NBA with that speed and explosion.

“It felt good,” Rose told USA Basketball’s media staff after the game. “I’m just trying to get games under my belt. We came out there and did what we are supposed to do, play hard, play well together. We played good basketball today. If the opportunity is there, I’m always going to dunk the ball. The lane was open and I decided to up and dunk. But the dunk wasn’t the game. We came out and played good defense and we came out with the victory”

It was an overwhelming effort against an overwhelmed team, which is likely to be the story of the so called “pool” play for USA Basketball, which continues Sunday with the USA playing Turkey and former Bull Omer Asik. The USA team is expected to easily sweep through its pool against Finland, Turkey, New Zealand, the Dominican Republic and Ukraine. The USA and host Spain are the heavy favorites to meet in the Finals Sept. 14. Spain with new Bull Pau Gasol did its part Saturday with a 90-60 win over Iran as Pau Gasol scored a tournament-best 33 points.

Rose had 12 points as Klay Thompson led the USA with 18 points and Anthony Davis had 17. Rose played a team-high 23 minutes.

“Derrick showed some great signs tonight,” said USA coach Mike Krzyzewski. “Getting him extra minutes, he’s more sharp. And he was angry with himself, which is good.”

That was late in the game with the USA leading by 50 points. Rose committed one of his team high five turnovers, though Andre Drummond might have caught the pass if he were more aware. It just came too fast, like Rose throughout Saturday’s game.

The play of the game in some respects, though it’s difficult to single out one when the USA has a 29-2 second quarter as it did Saturday, was that Rose two-handed slam dunk with the USA leading 53-18 in the second quarter.

Rose got the ball inbounded at three quarter court. He dribbled up the left side. As DeMarcus Cousins, who led with 10 rebounds, came up to set a screen, Rose simply accelerated, beating two defenders on top and into the lane so fast no one could react. Rose rose for that two handed slam dunk.

It was just another crushing play against an inundated team making an infrequent appearance in a tournament of this stature. Finland had a huge, partisan crowd that was enthusiastic throughout much of the game despite it quickly becoming one sided.

"I’m just trying to get games under my belt," said Rose. "We came out there and did what we are supposed to do, play hard, play well together."

“I’m just trying to get games under my belt,” said Rose. “We came out there and did what we are supposed to do, play hard, play well together.”

The USA team, while not able to play a sophisticated offense with so little time together and disruptions with the loss of Paul George to injury and Kevin Durant to personal considerations, is relying on its athletic abilities and defense to provoke an offense.

“Our entire team, the challenge is to see how good we can become in all areas,” USA assistant and Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau told the USA media staff. “They (Finland) spread you out and they can attack and they can shoot. Our ball pressure was very good and challenging shots was great, so it was a terrific (second) quarter. I believe it was 29-2. The ball pressure was great, challenging shots, finishing our defense, guys being tied together. It was a terrific quarter for us.”

The outcome was little in doubt after a 31-16 first quarter that led to a 60-18 halftime lead when the USA held Finland without a field goal and 19 consecutive misses in the second quarter. The challenge afterward was to remain healthy and not lose interest.

With Rose missing most of the last two seasons with ACL surgery and then meniscus surgery last November, it’s easy to forget his spectacular play and extraordinary speed. In his participation with USA Basketball, his first play in nine months, the initial questions were and will remain about the health of his knees. There’s also the curiosity about if he’s lost anything.

He appears not to.

There’s no one certainly among the USA players who could produce the human version of zero to 60 like Rose was doing in Saturday’s game, throwing an invisible shift and exploding so fast up court on several occasions you’d expect sneaker burns on the basketball floor.

It’s a mostly inexperienced USA team in international play.

“We wanted to come out and make a statement basically and tell the World Cup that the USA is for real, and even though we’re the youngest team in here, we’re going to play together and get after it,” said Kenneth Faried.

Chicagoan Davis is getting considerable attention as a breakout player. James Harden has been strong to the basket. Thompson has shown nice teamwork with Rose and a sure shot. Starting point guard Kyrie Irving, who played with Rose at times, has been consistent and Rudy Gay has added veteran experience. There’ll be different USA stars as the games continue.

But no one takes your breath away like Rose when he accelerates into those bursts, which we are seeing more of as the USA continues in the tournament games.

Rose, who had a team-high plus-45 in the plus/minus for score when on the floor, first entered the game with the USA leading 11-8. Rose appeared to concentrate on defense first and was more aggressive than anytime in these USA practices and previous exhibition games. He was overplaying and sealing his man, preventing even an entry pass.

Rose made a beautiful pass to Cousins, who missed the layup as Rose missed the follow. Rose later made a steal and drove, being fouled and making both free throws (5-5 from the line and 3-8 from the field) for a 34-12 lead. Rose then deflected a pass, which he turned into a driving three point play for that 31-16 first quarter USA lead. An active, all over the court Rose would also have two blocks and three assists in the game and several dropped passes by teammates.

Rose had that highlight dunk in the second quarter and then closed the first half for the USA with a fast break penetration and pass to Thompson for that corner three which is becoming a favorite play of theirs.

At 60-18, the USA paused a bit with former Bull Erik Murphy hustling for 10 points and seven rebounds for Finland.

But Rose came back in the third quarter pushing the ball again as he was fouled in transition and then seemed to miss a break going too fast. He found Mason Plumlee running in the fourth quarter for a layup as it was difficult for teammates to even stay with Rose. Rose then added his own three pointer, though a pair of turnovers had Rose upset even ahead by 50 points.

“He has high standards,” Krzyzewski said about Rose. “He played well, and then that one play he got pretty mad at himself.”

Which is encouraging for both the USA team and the Bulls as Rose appears to be catching up to the player we so fondly recall.

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