It was close all the way, with the Brazilians claiming a three-point lead at the half. The U.S. took over the lead with 7:14 remaining in the fourth and, thanks to some impressive trapping defense and Brazil's sharpshooters going cold, held on until the end.
But the U.S. had its share of struggles. Before inserting Tyson Chandler in the third quarter, Brazil repeatedly got to the rim with ease, signaling defensive breakdowns. The U.S. also tried to score too much on isolation plays, rather than make the extra passes they did in their first two games.
For Brazil, it was an admirable effort to say the least. Leandro Barbosa scored 14 points, though was just 5-of-18 from the field. And Tiago Splitter looked great against some of the NBA's best big men, finishing with 13 points and nine rebounds. Anderson Varejao, despite dressing, did not play.
Monday's victory over Brazil likely marks Team USA's most competitive game of preliminary play and gives the team a stranglehold on the Group B lead. The U.S. faces Iran on Wednesday and Tunisia on Thursday, two games they are expected to win handedly.
In a heady move, Huertas misses the second on purpose and gets his own rebound. He feeds Barbosa under the hoop, who gets a pretty good look at the rim, but his attempt falls errant and the U.S. holds on for the win.
On the other end, Barbosa knocks down a jumper to make it a two-point game.
With 3.5 seconds to go, Huertas draws the contact and gets to the line for two. His attempt rattles off of the rim, almost resulting in a three-point play.
The U.S. should try and feed Durant on its final few possessions. If Brazil decides to double team, Durant is a good enough passer to kick it out to the open man and get a good look.
Back on offense, Barbosa misses two threes before Odom cleans the glass.
For the third straight possession, the U.S. turns it over. Rose dribbles it off his leg and out of bounds.
Splitter misses under the hoop as the U.S. defense collapses on the big man. Billups called for an offensive foul on the other end. Not enough passing. What happened to the beautiful game?
Rose gets to the line and makes both to make it a four-point game again.
Rose with a bonehead turnover, throwing an alley-oop like he's at All-Star weekend. Coach K might take a kid's scholarship away if he did that at Duke.
Following the delay, and a couple of quick misses by both teams, Durant gets to the line after taking it to the rim.
KD hits one of two and now has 27 points.
The Raptor knocks down one of two to end the quarter and make it a two-point contest headed into the final period.
The U.S. has the lead, but the game isn't over. They'll need to keep up their defensive intensity in the final 10 minutes to squeeze out a win.
KD takes his anger out on the next possession with a mean one-handed slam.
Chandler comes out of the game and gets a breather. Odom back in at the 5.
Technical difficulties are keeping the game clock off ESPN's telecast. An impromptu game clock guessing game has broken out.
U.S. is on an 8-0 run.
The U.S. enters the bonus as Iguodala is fouled. He misses the first, but knocks down the second.
Chandler comes in and Brazil misses on two straight possessions. Rose then scores on a floater to give the U.S. its first lead since ... well, awhile.
On cue, Tyson Chandler checks into the game for the first time for Odom. Let's see what he can do.
The U.S.'s defense has to go one of two ways in the second half to contain Brazil. They either have to stick Tyson Chandler (or maybe Durant or Odom) under the hoop to intimidate Brazil's guards from taking it to the hole every time, or they need to go small and just switch off every pick-and-roll. Coach K will likely go with the latter rather than leave Chandler out their and slow down the offense.
The Brazilians shot a sizzling 63 percent in the first half, with Tiago Splitter scoring nine points and Leandro Barbosa chipping in eight. The team also shot a blazing 7-of-10 from three-point range.
The U.S. meanwhile has been the Kevin Durant Show. Durant has 19 points of the U.S.'s 43 points at the half. Billups has seven and Rose has chipped in five points and five rebounds.
Expect Coach K to mix it up in the second half. Brazil is getting to the rim with too much ease and shredding the U.S.'s press. Team USA is playing fairly well on offense (47 percent), but needs to stop settling for long bombs and continue to get to the line.
Brazil switches to a zone, forcing a Westbrook miss. On the other end, Barbosa tries to take Durant off the dribble, but KD picks his pocket, leading to a Brazilian foul on a breakaway. The NBA's scoring champ knocks down both free throws.
Iguodala with a steal on defense, but passes it straight to Brazil's Marcelo for the basketball equivalent of an own goal.
I wouldn't say the U.S. is playing poorly so far, rather Brazil is playing beautifully. On both ends of the floor they are showing more energy than the U.S. and deserve to be winning this game.
But Kevin Durant stops the bleeding. the Oklahoma City star is playing lights out right now. Scores on a beautiful and-1 to make it a five-point game.
Durant responds on the other end with a three of his own, his second of the game. There's no player in the world more dangerous than Durant with the ball in his hands.
Brazil starts Alex Garcia, Marcelo Huertas, Leandro Barbosa, Marcus Vieira and Tiago Splitter (Varejao off the bench). The U.S. starts the same lineup it did in the first two games, Billups-Rose-Iguodala-Durant-Odom.
Team USA faces its toughest test yet at the FIBA Worlds when it takes on Brazil this afternoon at 2:30 p.m. ET in the third game of pool play.
Both teams have faced little resistance from opposing teams up to this point, with the U.S. (2-0) notching a 22-point victory over Slovenia yesterday and Brazil (2-0) earning a 23-point win of their own over Tunisia.
Kevin Durant continues to lead the way for the U.S., but the team has also benefited from a deep and talented bench in its first two contests. Kevin Love had 10 points and 11 rebounds in just 13 minutes of play yesterday and Russell Westbrook provided a lightening-quick spark with 11 points and a dazzling display of lock-down defense.
Brazil boasts plenty of dangerous players, including Cavaliers big man Anderson Varejao, who is making his FIBA debut after sitting out the first two games with an injury. Leandro Barbosa, recently acquired by the Toronto Raptors, scored 21 points on Sunday and San Antonio Spurs rookie Tiago Splitter added 16 and could give Lamar Odom a handful early on.
Look for the U.S. to go with the same starting lineup of Odom-Durant-Andre Iguodala-Derrick Rose-Chauncey Billups. But if Splitter is a bother early, Mike Krzyzewski will likely turn to Tyson Chandler or Kevin Love for relief.