After a sloppy first quarter, the U.S. hit its stride, outscoring Croatia 26-6 in the second quarter and never looking back.
As Coach K will probably say, it was a team effort for the U.S. in its first game. Everyone played, everyone scored. The U.S. utilized its superior speed and athleticism to outrun and outmuscle an overwhelmed Croatian squad.
After four exhibitions and one win that actually counts, it appears the U.S. is going to be able to take just about anyone off the dribble in this tournament. With players like Durant and Lamar Odom at power forward and center, the U.S. is going to create matchup problems in just about every game. And with the Stars and Stripes making the extra pass and knocking down its perimeter shots (12 threes on 40 percent shooting), the U.S. has once again put together an offensive juggernaut.
The U.S. resumes play Sunday when they take on Slovenia (9:30 ET) in the second game of pool play. Led by Primoz Brezec, Goran Dragic and Bostjan Nachbar, Slovenia coasted to an 80-56 victory over Tunisia on Saturday in their first game.
The difference in the second quarter was the tempo. As much as Croatia would like to play a half-court game and dump it down to Tomic in the post, the U.S. is utilizing a relentless press and fast break to keep things moving. With a big lead in hand, look for the U.S. to play its reserves a majority of the second half. Coach K has to prepare his team for three games in three days with the U.S. facing Slovenia tomorrow and Brazil on Monday.
The U.S. shot 47 percent from the field in the first half and held Croatia to just 33 percent shooting. Look for the U.S. to go even smaller in the second half and turn its press up a notch. Every player but Danny Granger played in the first half.
Welcome to SI.com's live blog as Team USA kick off its gold-medal campaign in the 2010 FIBA World Championships this afternoon (ESPN Classic, noon EST).
First on the docket for the U.S. is Croatia (FIBA ranking: 15), a talented team with a bevy of capable wings. Croatia also boasts a slew of players who have made cameos in the NBA over the years, including 7-foot-2 Ante Tomic, combo guard Roko Ukic and point-forward Zoran Planinic.
Today's game marks both teams' first game of pool play at the FIBA Worlds. Despite several big name stars staying back in the states, the U.S. cruised to a 4-0 mark in exhibitions leading up to the tourney, with the exception of an exciting one-point victory over Spain a week ago.
Look for the U.S. to start Lamar Odom, Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, Derrick Rose and Chauncey Billups against Croatia.