August 28, 2010

FINAL - U.S. 106, Croatia 78 Team USA got its gold-medal campaign off on the right foot Saturday, disposing of an overmatched Croatian team and coasting to a 28-point victory in its first game of pool play at the 2010 FIBA Worlds.

After a sloppy first quarter, the U.S. hit its stride, outscoring Croatia 26-6 in the second quarter and never looking back.

Eric Gordon led the U.S. with 16 points off the bench (4-of-6 from three-point range), Kevin Durant added 14 points and Chauncey Billups and Rudy Gay chipped in 12 and 10, respectively.

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.

Fourth quarter, 28 seconds: Chandler follows up his dunk with a block on an unexpecting Croatian player. A nice finish to Team USA's victory in its 2010 FIBA debut. U.S. 106, Croatia 78

Fourth quarter, 43 seconds: Chandler gets on the board, meaning all 12 U.S. players have scored this afternoon. U.S. 104, Croatia 76

Fourth quarter, 1:38: Gordon with another bucket as the U.S. bench continues to clean up. Croatia is hanging in admirably. They are likely a better team than they are showing today and should fare well in the rest of pool play. U.S. 102, Croatia 73

Fourth quarter, 3:07: The U.S. has shown that it plans on winning with speed and athleticism in this tournament. Despite a lack of size, the U.S. is overpowering Croatia on both ends of the floor with their quickness. In addition, Coach K has his squad rebounding as a team, making up for the absence of Dwight Howard and other big names from the 2006 team. Russell Westbrook scores the U.S.'s latest basket with a beautiful crossover dribble and dunk. U.S. 98, Croatia, 68

Fourth quarter, 4:19: Eric Gordon scores with a nice bucket and draws the foul to continue a strong showing. With Rose, Billups, Gordon and Westbrook, the U.S. has many backcourt weapons. U.S. 94, Croatia 63

Fourth quarter, 5:54: Tomic tries to post up Love, but the U.S.'s help defense keeps the big man from scoring. Granger continues to provide most of the offense for the U.S. in the fourth quarter, but Love just knocked down a three-pointer from the top of the key after the Croatia defense dared him to. Looks like their Kevin Love scouting report could use a revision. U.S. 87, Croatia 62

Fourth quarter, 6:56: The outcome no longer lies in the balance, but the U.S. is slacking a bit on defense early in the fourth quarter. Coach K calls a time out, likely to get his press back in order. U.S. 85, Croatia 62

Fourth quarter, 7:03: Granger leading off the fourth quarter with a quick five points, but Croatia is heating up from beyond the arc to keep the game close. U.S. 85, Croatia 60

Third quarter - U.S. 78, Croatia 48 The U.S outscored Croatia 30-22 in the third quarter to take a 30-point lead headed into the final period. Every U.S. player but Tyson Chandler has scored today.

Third quarter, 26 seconds: The U.S.'s lineup of Love-Granger-Gay-Gordon-Curry is now doing some damage as the starters get some rest. After a too-close-for-comfort first quarter Team USA is finding its groove and pulling away.Rudy Gay is redeeming himself for a slow start and carrying the U.S. in the third quarter. U.S. 78, Croatia 45

Third quarter, 1:28: Love showing some of his offensive ability as well, knocking down a turnaround jumper. And Granger follows up on the next possession with a beautiful bucket and the foul, courtesy of a great pass from Love. U.S. 74, Croatia 39

Third quarter, 2:30: Team USA hasn't won at the FIBA Worlds since 1994, but the 2010 squad is looking plenty potent in its Turkey debut. Also worth noting: Kevin Love is doing a masterful job on the boards. No one boxes out better on the team. Nice choice by Coach K as a 12th man. U.S. 68, Croatia 36

Third quarter, 3:18: Granger in the game for the first time, meaning Coach K has given all 12 players some run today. Team USA continues to stretch its lead as it shares the ball and makes the extra pass. Gordon just knocked down his fourth three-pointer of the game and Kevin Love followed up with another score to give the U.S. a 34-point lead. U.S. 68, Croatia 34

Third quarter, 4:45: No LeBron, no Dwyane, no Carmelo -- no problem. The U.S. is showing it has plenty of firepower to mow down the competition. Durant throws a beautiful pass to Billups (12 points) for two points. On the next play, Billups lofts an alley-oop to Iguodala for the exclamation point and another bucket. U.S. 63, Croatia 35

Third quarter, 6:03: Tomic continues to have a strong game, blocking Durant under the hoop (how many NBA players can do that?). But Durant gets justice on the next play with an incredible -- and maybe unguardable -- step-back jumper over Tomic. U.S. 56, Croatia 33

Third quarter, 9:20: The U.S. is starting the second half with the same starting line-up of Odom-Durant-Iguodala-Rose-Billups. A.I. struggled to get it going in the first half but knocks down a 3 to start the second half. U.S. 51, Croatia 26

HALFTIME -- U.S. 48, Croatia 26 After trailing by one late in the first quarter, the U.S. took over in the second period, outscoring Croatia 26-6 to take a 22-point lead into the break. Durant leads the way with nine points and six rebounds, but several other players are stepping up for Team USA, including Rose (nine points), Russell Westbrook (seven points, two steals) and Odom (six points).

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.

Second quarter, 1:27: The U.S. has now outscored Croatia 25-6 in the second quarter. Gordon comes back to earth and misses on a three-point attempt, but Team USA holds a 21-point lead. U.S. 47, Croatia 26

Second quarter, 2:40: Some of the U.S.'s reserves have come off the bench a little off -- is it cold in Istanbul? -- Rudy Gay and Stephen Curry have combined to go 0-4 from the field. But one sub who is looking good is Eric Gordon, who just knocked down two more threes to give him nine points on the day. Gordon led the U.S. in scoring in their final exhibition the other day with 18 points. U.S. 44, Croatia 26

Second quarter, 4:30: Chandler misses two free throws, but the U.S. still holds a sizeable lead. Durant and Rose each have nine points and Billups has chipped in seven. U.S. 38, Croatia 24

Second quarter, 5:09: Tomic (six points, three rebounds) really showing off his ability to score with his back to the hoop this afternoon. The lean 7-foot-2 center was drafted in the second round by the Utah Jazz in 2008 and could do some damage in the NBA with a few more years of development. He's holding his own for sure against Odom and Chandler today. U.S. 38, Croatia 24

Second quarter, 6:47: The U.S. is finally using its versatility and athleticism to take over. With five guys on the floor who can handle the ball, Team USA is taking its opponent off the dribble every time and either scoring at the rim or getting to the line. Rose and Durant in particular are having their way early. U.S. on a 12-0 run. U.S. 36, Croatia 22

Second quarter, 7:43: Derrick Rose knocks down a three from the top of the key to give the U.S. its first double-digit lead. U.S. 32, Croatia 22

Second quarter, 8:16: A Rose jumper gives the U.S. the first basket of the quarter, but Kresimir Loncar's triple pumpfake under the rim gives Croatia a bucket on the other end. Kevin Durant followed Loncar's basket with two free throws and a pull-up jumper on back-to-back possessions. U.S. 29, Croatia 22

First quarter -- U.S. 22, Croatia 20: Marko Popovic misses a three as the buzzer sounds at the end of the first quarter. After jumping out to a seven-point lead, the U.S. struggled with its shooting, leading to a Croatian surge, led by the post play of Ante Tomic.

First quarter, 22.9 seconds: Chandler making a difference. Forces Tomic to travel in the post. Odom provides match-up problems but Chandler might get a bulk of the playing time at the 5 if Tomic keeps it up. U.S. 22, Croatia 19

First quarter, 1:21: A Marko Banic follow-up gives Croatia its first lead of the game. Looks like the U.S. is pressing a little bit and could be surprised Croatia is hanging in there. U.S. 18, Croatia 19

First quarter, 2:11 The big Croatian -- Ante Tomic -- continues to have his way with the U.S. big men, but the U.S. has brought in Tyson Chandler in an attempt to neutralize Tomic. Meanwhile, an Eric Gordon 3-pointer makes it a one-point game. U.S. 18, Croatia 17

First quarter, 5:18: Tomic proving to be a tough challenge for the undersized U.S. team, posting up Odom and scoring on a pretty fadeaway. But the U.S. is getting down the floor so quickly Croatia is on their heels on almost every defensive possession. Another Odom bucket is followed by another Tomic fadeaway. Could have a nice little matchup developing here.. U.S. 15, Croatia 13

First quarter, 6:51: Team USA is showing superior speed and athleticism so far, but Croatia is hanging in there with an impressive shooting display. A strong bucket by Lamar Odom under the hoop (four rebounds already) puts the U.S. up by four. U.S. 11, Croatia 7

First quarter, 8:42: The U.S. is off to a roaring start. Billups got to the line on the U.S.'s first possession and knocked down a three on the team's next trip down the court. Rose followed up with a layup and Ukic scored Croatia's first points of the game on a runner. U.S. 7, Croatia 2

First quarter, 10:00: Starting for Croatia today: Roko Ukic-Marko Tomas-Bojan Bogdanovic-Luka Zoric-Ante Tomic. Starting for the U.S. for the third straight game: Odom-Durant-Iguodala-Billups-Rose. U.S. 0, Croatia 0


Welcome to'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.

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