USA cruises with support from Rose


Sep 2

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You don’t want to examine the box score of Tuesday’s 98-71 USA Basketball victory over New Zealand to measure the effectiveness and impact of Derrick Rose.

Rose played 17 minutes, shooting one of six with two assists, a block and a steal.

There was no issue or question about the health of Rose’s surgically repaired knees, which has been the major concern regarding Rose coming into this FIBA Basketball World Cup in which the USA went to 3-0 in the pool play round.

"His defense was the most aggressive of the USA guards as he made a steal going over a screen on a pick and roll, which few of the USA guards attempt," writes Smith of Rose.

“His defense was the most aggressive of the USA guards as he made a steal going over a screen on a pick and roll, which few of the USA guards attempt,” writes Smith of Rose.

Let’s say Rose basically is past that, though examinations of his health, as Rose has conceded, likely will remain an issue every game he plays this season. But judging Rose with a microscope in this tournament given the limited amount of play in what, certainly in this round, likely will be a series of blowout wins, will produce a misleading view.

Rose made a pull up jumper in transition when entering the game with about four minutes remaining in the first quarter. His defense was the most aggressive of the USA guards as he made a steal going over a screen on a pick and roll, which few of the USA guards attempt.

Rose had a brilliant interior bounce pass to Anthony Davis that Davis, who led the USA with 21 points and nine rebounds, deflected and then dropped. Rose also barely missed on another pull up later in a first quarter that closed with the USA leading 27-20.

In the second quarter, Rose took a lob pass from Kenneth Faried, who had 15 points and 11 rebounds and is shooting 81 percent in the tournament. The pass was slightly off and just rolled off the rim as Rose made an excellent midair adjustment. Rose then started the second half for the first time, getting a rotation with the starters. He had a deflection to break up an easy layup score and after starting the fourth quarter as well had a three pointer go halfway down and spin out.

Rose did make a few errors on defense, getting caught watching the ball late and losing his man on a backdoor cut. But he also continued to battle over screens and was charged with a late foul doing so. His play was aggressive on defense, which is not a given with the USA guards, and he was a fraction or two from three other shots going in.

It’s the difference in tournaments like this versus regular NBA games.

Every top player, because they play big minutes, goes through inevitable rough spots in regular season games and has a chance to shoot themselves out of a poor statistical outing. Not so in this sort of international competition with limited playing time—Rose played 16 minutes and 39 seconds in four shifts—and without the benefit of a set offense or many plays.

I always remember fans complaining about John Paxson averaging five points and Paxson explaining it’s difficult to average 20 points on five shots per game.

Rose in this USA tournament scenario hasn’t had any plays called for him and seems to have a role primarily as a facilitator. He hasn’t looked to force any offense as the USA team with so little time together has relied upon active defense to try to create offense.

It’s also why the high scorers have been Davis and Faried, who have been able to follow up misses or convert on the end of fast breaks and transition opportunities.

Davis and Faried have been able to be the USA scoring leaders as in this pool play they haven’t gone against teams with big front lines. That could change once the USA goes into the quarterfinals in Barcelona starting Saturday. That begins a single elimination. Tuesday’s win officially qualified the USA for a place in the quarter finals. The USA plays the Dominican Republic Wednesday.

The level of competition in this round has masked the USA weaknesses in shooting and perimeter defense. Among the starters, Kyrie Irving, James Harden and Stephen Curry all are weak to average defenders, though coach Mike Krzyzewski said they defended well Tuesday. Krzyzewski has stayed with them for their offense, but that has proved a conundrum as well.

The USA team should be shooting much better as they are about 35 percent on threes, and from a shorter line, in the first three games.

But that’s because even with great shooters like Curry and Klay Thompson, Irving and Harden tend to play more isolation and haven’t been good getting the better shooters open looks. Curry, for example, is just eight for 25 overall as the spacing for the shooters has been poor with a lack of interior screening and the guards holding onto the ball too long. The best open corner threes the USA has had since the exhibition games has been Rose with Thompson.

It’s probably one reason why Krzyzewski wanted to give Rose a look with the starters.

“I put him out there because he is one of the best players in the league,” Krzyzewski said of Rose in his post game comments. “Also, he has to get minutes with the guys that are playing more minutes because he is a guy who should play a lot of minutes. It’s something that I thought about doing before the game, and it worked out that way. I thought Kyrie played really well, and I thought Derrick played really well. But I didn’t use them that much together tonight. I wanted to see them separate. But he did well. I thought (Rose) moved well and captured some of that chemistry he had in Vegas with James in practices. The two of them when they were on the court together, there’s some really good exchanges.

“I thought he (Rose) played his best game here today,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s moving very fast. He had that one shot go in and out, and then Kenneth put it back in. I like the way he moved and fought through defensively. He doesn’t show any signs of favoring anything. I think he played well today.”

Tuesday’s game was the expected one sided result after Sunday’s scare for the USA when it trailed at halftime against Turkey’s deliberate strategy before pulling away in the fourth quarter.

New Zealand didn’t have NBA talent, though it did offer its intriguing Haka pregame ritual, an ancestral war cry dance which New Zealand teams employ before games in international competition. The USA players looked on with curiosity.

Then the USA players came out forcing turnovers and dunking, led by the energetic Faried.

“He plays with amazing energy and really is as good of a rebounder as there is, I think,” said Krzyzewski. “He plays hard every second he’s out there. I think these guys would tell you they love playing with him. He doesn’t need the ball much; he gets the ball for people. Overall, from the start of training camp, he’s been the biggest and best surprise and has turned out to be a very, very important player for us. He’s made that happen. We never call a play for him, although we posted him once today. But he did that on his own. He just makes plays. I guess that’s why they call him a player, he makes plays.”

The USA went with the same starters in Davis, Faried, Harden, Curry and Irving with Rose starting the second half for Irving after a 57-35 USA halftime lead with Davis and Faried leading with 11 each in the half.

The USA did run a nice screen for a Harden catch and shoot three to open the second half and a Davis pass for a Harden back door basket to stretch it out to 62-37 with Krzyzewski trying various combinations afterwards.

Davis did get hit in eye and had to come out in the first half, replaced by DeMarcus Cousins, who remains a frustrating big man as he immediately decided to take a fadeaway jump shot. Krzyzewski got Davis back in quickly, but it also suggests the vulnerability of the USA team if Davis or Faried are unable to play.

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