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.Fourth quarter, 3.5 seconds: Huertas misses the first after it rolls around the rim for what seems like forever.
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. U.S. 70, Brazil 68
Fourth quarter, 3.5 seconds Billups clears the defense out and takes his man to the hole, scoring on a crucial layup.
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. U.S. 70, Brazil 68
Fourth quarter, 1:10: A rare basket interference call gives Brazil two points, making it a one-possession game.
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. U.S. 68, Brazil 66
Fourth quarter, 1:18: Splitter has a good look at the rim, but Durant comes in from nowhere to slap it away. Odom with a beautiful spin move but can't finish.
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. U.S. 68, Brazil 64
Fourth quarter 2:45: Brazil's touch from long distance appears to have faded, but Durant travels giving the ball back to the Brazilians. Too many sloppy turnovers. U.S. 68, Brazil 64
Fourth quarter, 3:12: Things are getting tight in Istanbul. After a run-and-gun game the first three periods, things are slowing down and both teams have gone to half-court sets.
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? U.S. 68, Brazil 64
Fourth quarter, 3:54: Couple of ugly shots for the U.S. If I'm Team USA, I'm letting Kevin Durant (27 points) do his thing. I could do without Odom and Rose dribbling it into the ground.
Rose gets to the line and makes both to make it a four-point game again. U.S. 68, Brazil 64
Fourth quarter, 4:46: Splitter with the jump hook in traffic to make it a two-point game. U.S. 66, Brazil 64
Fourth quarter, 5:08: Team USA starts trapping on the pick-and-roll and sees results immediately, forcing a couple of turnovers.
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. U.S. 66, Brazil 62
Fourth quarter, 6:50: No one is better at the reverse layup than Derrick Rose. The Bulls star times the contact perfectly, scoring on another amazing layup and getting to the line. Time out. U.S. 66, Brazil 62
Fourth quarter, 7:00: Rather than go big, Coach K is choosing to go with his small starting lineup and switch on every pick-and-roll. Odom scores two on a cherry pick. U.S. 64, Brazil 62
Fourth quarter, 7:42: Vinicius with a big three as the shot clock buzzer sounds to tie the game at 62. Brick by Durant on the other end. U.S. 62, Brazil 62
Fourth quarter, 8:41 Thumbs up from the scorer's table means we are back to basketball.
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. U.S. 62, Brazil 59
Fourth quarter, 10:00: Scoreboard malfunction keeps the final period from starting just yet. ESPN kills some time by showing a few random crowd shots. Emphasis on random. Where's the Kiss Cam? U.S. 61, Brazil 59
Third quarter - U.S. 61, Brazil 59 Barbosa knocks down another three and then draws a foul on the next play with 7.2 seconds to go.
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.
Third quarter, 1:00: Kevin Durant misses a shot. I found this noteworthy. U.S. 61, Brazil 55
Third quarter, 1:07: Odom cleans the glass and throws an outlet to Durant for an easy bucket in transition. Brazil seems to be struggling a bit more on offense and isn't making the shots it was knocking down in the first half. Splitter picks up his fourth foul, adding to the trouble. U.S. 61, Brazil 55
Third quarter, 2:03: Durant shows some frustration after he's called for a travel in the post. You don't see that call in the NBA very often, hence the bewilderment.
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. U.S. 59, Brazil 55
Third quarter, 3:23: Brazil knocks down a three to get back on the board. Billups finds a seam and takes it to the rim on the next play for two. U.S. 57, Brazil 53
Third quarter, 4:13: The Chandler Effect coming into play. Maybe its a coincidence, but Brazil hasn't scored since the big man has come into the game.
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. U.S. 55, Brazil 50
Third quarter, 4:47: U.S. with a lineup of Chandler-Durant-Iguodala-Rose-Billups right now. The Chandler sub seems to be helping things on defense, as Brazil has gone 0-4 since the new Mavs center has checked in to the game.
The U.S. enters the bonus as Iguodala is fouled. He misses the first, but knocks down the second. U.S. 53, Brazil 50
Third quarter, 5:40: Durant splashes another three from the top of the key. Does this guy miss? KD has 22.
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. U.S. 52, Brazil 50
Third quarter, 6:50: Splitter takes Odom in the post and scores on a jump hook. Odom simply isn't a good enough post defender to guard the Brazilian big man.
On cue, Tyson Chandler checks into the game for the first time for Odom. Let's see what he can do. U.S. 47, Brazil 50
Third quarter, 7:43: Billups knocks down two free throws to make it a one-point game. U.S. 47, Brazil 48
Third quarter, 8:14: Odom knocks down a jumper in Splitter's eye to get the scoring going for U.S. Marcus Vinicius scores on a dunk to give him 11 points for the game. U.S. 45, Brazil 48
Third quarter, 9:37: Back underway. Brazil starts the half with a turnover and the U.S. returns the favor by dribbling out of bounds. Sloppy start. U.S. 43, Brazil 46
Third quarter, 10:00: My first look at Tiago Splitter has me really impressed. At 6-foot-11, he handles the ball like a small forward and plays like a center. So far, he has nine points, three rebounds and three assists. He's going to be a hit in San Antonio this fall.
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. U.S. 43, Brazil 46
HALFTIME -- U.S. 43, BRAZIL 46As the half comes to an end, the U.S. is facing its first deficit of the tournament, trailing by three to Brazil.
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.
Second quarter, 43 seconds: Brazil still doing their thing on offense. A behind-the-back pass to Splitter leads to another dunk. U.S. 43, Brazil 46
Second quarter, 1:19: No Varejao yet, his injury could keep him out of today's contest.
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. U.S. 43, Brazil 44
Second quarter, 2:00: Rose with a double-pump layup that took my breath away for a second. Brazil hits a 3 on the other end, but the U.S. responds with a breakaway layup. Brazil's Giovannoni banks in yet another a 3. U.S. 41, Brazil 43
Second quarter, 4:05: Team USA and Brazil exchange made free throws before the U.S. gets a steal and a Durant dunk off an Odom miss. KD has 14 of the U.S.'s 34 points. U.S. 34, Brazil 37
Second quarter, 5:03 Rose senses his teammates are struggling and tries to create some offense of his own to no avail. Coach K huddles his team to try and restore a sense of normalcy. U.S. 30, Brazil 35
Second quarter, 5:20: As the telecast points out, the U.S. is taking a lot of contested shots. Not really sure why, considering almost everyone on the U.S. team can take their defender off the dribble and to the rim.
Iguodala with a steal on defense, but passes it straight to Brazil's Marcelo for the basketball equivalent of an own goal. U.S. 30, Brazil 35
Second quarter, 6:29: Billups finds gold under the hoop in an uncontested layup. Brazil (finally?) misses on two straight possessions, leading to a Rose breakaway the other way. Rose is fouled and knocks down one of two free throws to make it a three-point game. U.S. 30, Brazil 33
Second quarter, 7:36: Brazil doing pretty much whatever they want on offense -- could be time for Coach K to bring in Tyson Chandler and stand under the hoop. Team USA is starting to get sloppy, reaching in and committing silly fouls and forcing unnecessary shots on the offensive end.
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. U.S. 27, Brazil 33
Second quarter, 8:56: Odom starts the period with a travel and Brazil takes advantage with a bucket on the other end to cap a 10-0 run.
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. U.S. 25, Brazil 30
First quarter, U.S. 22, Brazil 28 A U.S. breakdown on defense leads to an uncontested dunk from Splitter. As Westbrook goes up for a last-second lay-up, Splitter is there again, slapping the ball off the backboard and ending the quarter in style. Great period for Brazil. They look unstoppable on offense and are containing the U.S. enough on defense to hold a six-point lead.
First quarter, 36 seconds: Barbosa taking over for Brazil, knocking down threes on back-to-back possessions. U.S. 22, Brazil 26
First quarter, 1:38: Garcia swishes a high-arcing three in Rudy Gay's face, but Kevin Love knocks down a trey of his own on the other end. When your best rebounder is also hitting threes, you know you're doing alright. U.S. 22, Brazil 20
First quarter, 2:29: Gordon's chuck from beyond the arc is off, but Gay is under the hoop to keep the possession alive and draw a foul. Misses the first, but knocks down the second. U.S. 19, Brazil 17
First quarter, 3:21: Brazil doing damage inside, bullying the U.S.'s undersized post players. And as soon as the help defense comes, Brazil kicks it out for their first three of the 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.
First quarter, 6:20: Durant picking up where he left off on Sunday, knocking down a three from the top of the key to give him five early points. Splitter scores his first points of the game on the ensuing play. Another Brazilian bucket ties it at 10, as U.S.'s opponent has yet to miss a field goal. U.S. 10, Brazil 10
First quarter, 7:58: Following two free throws by Iguodala, the U.S. turns on the press and instantly forces a turnover. Durant scores on the other end, draws the foul and knocks down the freebie. U.S. 7, Brazil 4
First quarter, 8:24: Game on. Iguodala starts off with Barbosa duty. Huertas with a floater for the first points of the game. After a Durant miss, Huertas follows with another bucket. Billups scores the U.S.'s first points with a nifty move under the hoop. U.S. 4, Brazil 2
First quarter, 10:00: Almost underway in Istanbul. Despite playing three games in three days, the U.S. should be fairly rested. Coach K has done a great job spreading the minutes around -- Chauncey Billups has averaged the most through two games at 23.0 minutes per game and Tyson Chandler the fewest at 9.5 mpg.
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. U.S. 0, Brazil 0
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.