USA with another splash in the pool in 106-71 win


Sep 3

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After four games in pool play for USA Basketball in the FIBA World Cup of Basketball, Derrick Rose is averaging 5.8 points on 26.1 percent shooting, two assists and two turnovers in 17.5 minutes per game.

No MVP chants. But Rose in Wednesday’s USA 106-71 victory over the Dominican Republic was arguably the USA’s most efficient and aggressive guard and a key player in the midst of a 22-0 run that broke open the game through the third and into the fourth quarter.

“I thought our bench did a great job. DeMarcus (Cousins) and Rudy (Gay) were terrific,” said USA coach Mike Krzyzewski. “I thought Derrick’s ball pressure was amazing tonight. Rudy gave us a four-point play right at the end of the half with a steal, free throws and a bucket, and in the second and third quarter we were just playing at a pretty high level.”

"[If] you know basketball instead of analytics, you’d recognize how well Rose is progressing and how effective he’s been, especially with Wednesday being a second in this back to back set of games," writes Smith.

“[If] you know basketball instead of analytics, you’d recognize how well Rose is progressing and how effective he’s been, especially with Wednesday being a second in this back to back set of games,” writes Smith.

Rose’s play would be a mathematician’s nightmare. But if you know basketball instead of analytics, you’d recognize how well Rose is progressing and how effective he’s been, especially with Wednesday being a second in this back to back set of games.

True, the competition is not great as the USA went to 4-0 and clinched first place in its pool. The quarter final elimination play begins Saturday. The USA has one pool game left, Thursday against Ukraine. But in playing a back to back, Rose committed one turnover over the last 30 minutes in the two games with nine points, though he isn’t counted on to score much for this USA team.

Rose’s effectiveness was in his defense as he not only was the only USA guard to pick up in the backcourt, but several times he helped his bigs when the ball went inside, forcing turnovers on two occasions in that 22-0 spurt. Though Rose has gotten beaten baseline a few times, it’s primarily been a lack of knowledge of the Tom Thibodeau defense by the USA big men.

Rose has been in the correct spots in the Bulls defense the USA is playing, which closes middle and forces the pick and roll to the baseline. That’s where the big man is supposed to step up to help, which Anthony Davis and Kenneth Faried have not always done, making the guards look bad.

Faried again led the USA with 16 points and DeMarcus Cousins off the bench had 13 points and seven steals against a small Dominican Republic team that was saving high scorer Francisco Garcia for their next crucial game after Garcia suffered a sprained ankle. Gay had nine points and five assists and Stephen Curry had eight points and seven assists.

But in another pool, Spain again was impressive with a dominant 88-64 win over France. Marc Gasol with 17 points and Pau Gasol with 15 points and two blocks led Spain and Serge Ibaka added 10 points and a pair of blocks. The USA’s smallish front line isn’t going to be able to get the basket against those big guys who work together so well. The trio combined for lob passes to one another for dunks and layups on several occasions in a continuation of the beautiful team basketball Spain plays.

“Sometime we might take a look at Anthony at the four,” said Krzyzewski. “Those 12 guys are the 12 guys who earned it in our opinion, and we felt that was the best balance. Especially with us knowing that Derrick was going to be able to play. If we weren’t sure about Derrick, then I think we would have had to look at another way.”

The USA team, understandably, could struggle with the sort of size and skill Spain’s big men have given it’s a group inexperienced in international competition and which hasn’t played together long. The team also experienced several key withdrawals even after they came together.

It shows in a general lack of passing and player movement to start games as the starters tend to play considerable isolation ball. Typically, Kyrie Irving drove to the basket on the first USA play of the game and Faried followed with a drive from the top of the key on the next. Though both scored, it was a signal of USA play as they led just 25-22 after one quarter with limited ball movement.

It’s where Rose has excelled even if it doesn’t always show up in the box scores, thus flummoxing many who prefer the numbers to the games.

Rose came in late in the first half and exploded past the defense for a layup that rolled off, which has happened to him a lot in this tournament as he’s often, predictably, going too fast in the few scoring plays he gets. But then to open the second quarter, Rose made a nice post past to Cousins, who drew the defense and passed to DeMar DeRozan for an easy layup. Not that the USA has been challenged in this weakest of the four pools coming in as defending champion. But that’s the sort of play needed against more talented and skilled teams, like Spain.

The Dominican Republic tried a zone, which Turkey had some success with against the USA. Rose midway through the second laid the ball in on a runout after Gay stole the ball and passed ahead. Then Rose went well over the rim on a back door cut, his elbow almost over the rim. But DeRozan’s lob pass was off the mark and Rose couldn’t finish. Though it’s clear his speed and athletic abilities remain strong.

The USA led 56-41 at halftime, and then Rose was in the middle of several key plays on that 22-0 run that gave the USA a 92-52 lead early in the fourth quarter when Rose left the game.

Rose had a sharp interior pass to Davis for a score, a finger roll score after a turnover, stripped the ball coming down to help Cousins against a postup and later helped disrupt another inside play with help off his man. But indicative of the difficulties this USA team sometimes has playing together and which tends to diminish Rose’s output, is a play late in the third quarter.

DeRozan would make a spectacular driving slam dunk to make the score 79-52. But the play should have been an open three. Rose got the ball in the backcourt and dribbled fast into the middle. The Dominican defense collapsed and Rose passed the ball to DeRozan, wide open on the left wing. DeRozan decided not to shoot. He dropped the ball off to get it back so he could drive. It produced a highlight dunk, but it’s a losing play against a more sophisticated, bigger and talented team. Rose had gotten him open for the good shot and he let it go to make a spectacular individual play. It is one reason why it seems a mistake to have left off Kyle Korver, who is the kind of three-point threat this USA team seems to need with yet another poor three point shooting game at six for 21.

The USA is leading the tournament in shooting at 54.8 percent. But they are only 33 percent on threes even with a shorter line as they constantly try to lob dunk everything. It was embarrassing late in the game when despite leading by 32 points with just over two minutes left, Mason Plumlee threw a lob to Andre Drummond, who slammed and then stood and posed and screamed.

Only seven of the 24 teams in the tournament are shooting more poorly from three than the USA team. The USA also was once again outshot on threes as most of the USA guards aren’t that adept at closing out on three point shooters. It seems assistant Thibodeau hasn’t had enough practice time yet. The USA has now won 58 consecutive FIBA games including exhibitions.

“I’m not even worried about our offense,” said Klay Thompson to USA Basketball media staff. “If we just kind of play that pressure on the defensive end. We have too much depth, and we’re going to give teams a lot of headaches. I know our offense is going to come. We have too many talented scorers. If we just keep making those easy opportunities on defense, a lot of turnovers, surround the ball, we’re going to be a problem for every team we play. We’re all really talented players, but we’ve only been playing together for a few weeks now. A lot of people out there are writing us off, thinking we’re in Spain and not having the international experience of past teams is going to be a problem. As long as we play hard, we’re too talented to not do well in this tournament. Teams don’t have the lateral quickness and length and athleticism that we do. We just got to keep clogging those passing lanes and make it tough on them when they go to the basket and limit three-point opportunities.”

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