It started off pretty shaky at the Verizon Center last night as Team USA just couldn't get it together. The men's basketball squad was down by 10 at the end of the first quarter and it appeared as if the team just could not get in sync.
Injuries to Dwight Howard, Blake Griffin and Chris Bosh have left the team with some gaping holes in the big-man department, but if this team is going to win the 2012 Summer Olympics as they are forecasted to do, now is the time to learn how to deal with only one true center in Tyson Chandler.
Thankfully, Team USA found some ways to come back from that deficit and actually outscored Brazil 20-5 in the second quarter. Thanks to a tremendous defensive effort from all players who often applied full-court pressure, the second quarter is the only thing that kept Team USA alive. In the second half, Team USA only outscored Brazil by a total of six points, so without the strong second quarter, this would have been quite an embarrassing and shocking night in the Phone Booth.
Back in his hometown area, Kevin Durant had a relatively quiet night with 11 points and three boards. But the most interesting part is that he had as many rebounds as Kevin Love and Tyson Chandler combined. Brazil's big men just simply outhustled Team USA in the post all night. Anderson Varejao, who heard the boo-birds all night from DC fans with a very unforgiving memory, had 13 boards. Washington Wizard Nene also proved to be difficult down low picking up six boards and eight points, himself.
The real star of the night goes to just who you would expect it to be. Lebron James led all scorers with 30 points and racking up six boards and four steals, as well. He really was able to carry this team through the game not only in his offensive efforts, but in his defensive intensity, too. When the team stepped up the pressure, Brazil buckled. They ended up with 26 turnovers which led to 28 Team USA points.
Chris Paul was the only other member of the team to go into double figures with ten points, but he showed some razzle dazzle in his play and gave the fans something to "ooh" and "aah" over with his no look passes and cross-ups on defenders.
However, Brazil had an answer for Chris Paul in Marcelo Huertas, who had 13 assists and 11 points when all was said and done. A player for Regal FC Barcelona in Spain, Marcelo had some glimpses you could only compare to Steve Nash in the way he handled and passed the ball. It's almost unbelievable that no team picked up on this guy when he entered the draft in 2005. In a game with much less flare than expected, Huertas had the most and-1-ish moments of the night.
While Team USA still has to be favored in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, it became a little more evident that it's not going to be as easy of a ride as everyone thought it might be. This team has a ton of talent on the roster, but they have to get it all to mesh together if they're going to beat teams like Spain in the next few weeks.
They've got to get Kevin Love more active (as he only played just over five minutes tonight) to help out on the rebounding and they've got to focus more on the team play that was seen in the practices rather than the one-on-one situations that they often wanted to put themselves into tonight.
But for a sellout crowd of 20,390, the fans were given a taste of the excitement that is sure to come in just a few weeks in London, England. And for the players, they got a well-needed lesson on what to work on to be successful overseas.