September 01, 2010

FINAL -- U.S. 88, Iran 51The U.S. did what it needed to do on Wednesday, disposing of Iran and working out some kinks in their 37-point victory at the FIBA World Championship.

Team USA stretched its lead in every quarter and improved to 4-0 in preliminary play, clinching the Group B title. The U.S. is likely to play Germany or Australia in the Round of 16 after facing Tunisia on Thursday.

Kevin Love led the way for the U.S. with 13 points off the bench, while Kevin Durant added 12. Derrick Rose scored 11 and Danny Granger chipped in 10.

The U.S. shot 57.8 percent from the field with every player scoring. The team played much better in halfcourt sets than it did on Monday and moved the ball fluidly.

Most encouraging of all, the U.S. turned in a much better defensive effort. Although Iran isn't an offensive powerhouse by any means, it shot just 30 percent for the game and committed 24 turnovers. Iran's most impressive performance came from Memphis Grizzlies center Hamed Haddadi, who scored 19 points and pulled down six rebounds.

Although the outcome of Wednesday's game was never in question, there were a few other queries answered in the Iran game. The U.S. showed it can score in other ways besides the fastbreak and can turn up the defensive intensity when called upon. Although the U.S. might not have a big team, they are athletic and long and can force tons of turnovers when focused.

Still, there were a few frustrating moments from Wednesday's game. U.S. players committed a bevy of mistakes, turning the ball over 16 times. Many of those came on fastbreaks when the U.S. actually had numbers. They'll need to take better care of the rock in elimination games if they want to advance.

Fourth quarter, 37 seconds: Play of the day: Love throws an alley-oop to Westbrook who slams it home with a reverse dunk.

Granger follows with another three, stretching the lead to 37. U.S. 88, Iran 51

Fourth quarter, 1:34: A Love steal leads to a Granger fast break. The Pacers swingman finds Stephen Curry wide open for an easy two. The U.S. is finishing strong against Iran. U.S. 83, Iran 51

Fourth quarter, 1:54: Gordon misses the highlight dunk and begs for a foul to no avail.

Love knocks down an outside jumper, showing off a little bit of everything today. U.S. 81, Iran 51

Fourth quarter, 2:43: Granger scores on the pull-up. He's had a nice game after barely playing in the last few.

Haddadi scores again -- I think this guy is slightly better than a third-string center. He's doing more than hold his own today. Way more skilled than Croatia's Ante Tomic or Slovenia's Primoz Brezec who we saw earlier in the tournament. U.S. 79, Iran 51

Fourth quarter, 4:00: U.S. looking to give its bench some work in the closing minutes. Clean-up crew of Love-Gay-Gordon-Curry-Granger in.

Love scores on the finger roll in transition. U.S. 757, Iran 49

Fourth quarter, 5:32: Haddadi scores again and now has 17 points -- impressive game from the Grizzlies center.

Granger puts his head down, draws the foul and scores.Love comes in for Chandler. U.S. 73, Iran 49

Fourth quarter, 6:08: Gordon takes it coast-to-coast for the basket and is fouled. He converts on the three-point play.

Kazemi and Chandler exchange dunks, with the latter coming in the face of Haddadi. Little payback for that Hakeem move. U.S. 70, Iran 49

Fourth quarter, 7:08: Haddadi looking like The Dream out there with the shimmy, the shake and the fade-away jumper over Tyson Chandler. Chandler looked back in disbelief when he saw the high-arcing shot swish through the net.

Granger checking in for Westbrook, who has been wild at times. U.S. 67, Iran 45

Fourth quarter, 8:03: Haddadi gets the best of his Memphis teammate Rudy Gay for a basket and the foul.

Curry gets the ball stripped and is whistled for an intentional foul on the breakaway. Tough call. U.S. 64, Iran 42

Fourth quarter, 9:39: Chandler knocks down a jumper to start the quarter. That's a good sign your offense is working well.

Chandler knocks a ball off the rim on the other end, taking advantage of FIBA rules. U.S. 64, Iran 39

Third quarter -- U.S. 62, Iran 38 Much like the end of the second quarter, the third quarter ends in free throws. Gay knocks down one of two to extend the U.S.'s lead to 23 headed into the final period.

Team USA out scores Iran 20-11 in the third, sparked by Rose's (11 points on 5-of-6 shooting) strong play. The team also continues to pressure Iran on every possession, leading to endless turnovers by the Iranians.

Third quarter, 34 seconds: Rose gets a well-earned rest, with Curry checking back in. I'm guessing we don't see anymore behind-the-back passes.

Instead, a wide-open Curry pump fakes and hits a pull-up jumper. Much better. U.S. 61, Iran 37

Third quarter, 1:40: Team USA turns to the bench some more, subbing in Chandler, Gordon and Westbrook as they did in the first quarter.

Rose's big quarter continues, knocking down a baseline jumper. U.S. 59, Iran 36

Third quarter, 3:00: Iggy (three fouls) takes a seat and is replaced by Rudy Gay.

Billups steps into a deep three but misses, but Rose keeps the possession alive and tips it back to the U.S. Gay catches the defense out of position and drills a trey. U.S. 57, Iran 34

Third quarter, 4:23: Iguodala gets away with a travel then commits a foul on the other end.

The U.S. scores after Odom takes Haddadi to the basket. U.S. 54, Iran 33

Third quarter, 5:13: Kazemi continues his big game with a bucket and the foul (misses the free throw).

Durant misses on the other end and Iran slows it down. U.S. 52, Iran 32

Third quarter, 6:17: Note to Iran: guard Derrick Rose.

Rose scores again on an uncontested layup. No one is helping out under the rim, letting Rose wander into the lane whenever his heart desires. U.S. 52, Iran 30

Third quarter, 7:01: Rose takes his man off the dribble and scores another easy two for the U.S. Haddadi responds with a floater before the shot clock expires. U.S. 50, Iran 30

Third quarter, 8:20: Rose and Durant score on back-to-back baskets, which for the most part were uncontested. Iran calls a time out. U.S. 48, Iran 28

Third quarter, 8:51: Back underway. A scoring error changed the halftime score to 42-28. A Kevin Durant basket originally ruled a three was turned into a two.

Billups with a steal and an easy bucket to start the third quarter. U.S. 44, Iran 28

HALFTIME -- U.S. 42, Iran 28Billups is fouled with one second left on the clock and knocks down one of two free throws to give the U.S. a 14-point lead headed into the half.

Despite the big advantage, things have been sloppy at times for the U.S. in the first two periods. The team committed nine turnovers (although forced 21) and has struggled from the field, with the exception of Durant and Love.

K.D. leads all scorers with 11 and Love has nine. Every U.S. player has scored except for Odom and Curry.

Iran is shooting just 33 percent, but has to be happy playing a fairly competitive half against the tournament favorite. Haddadi is just 2-of-8 from the floor (seven points), but Arsalan Kazemi, a sophomore at Rice, has nine.

Second quarter, 35 seconds: Beautiful ball movement from the U.S. on their last possession. Granger-to-Odom-to-Durant results in a long two, but Kazemi knocks down another bucket in response. He now has nine. U.S. 41, Iran 28

Second quarter, 1:34: Team USA forces a shot clock violation -- Coach K has to be happy to see that. The U.S.'s length is really clogging the passing lanes and forcing a ton of turnovers in the first half. U.S. 39, Iran 24

Second quarter, 2:01: Iran knocks down a triple, but Durant responds with a bucket from the free-throw line and now has eight.

So long for that lineup. Odom checks in to give Love a breather.

Granger knocks down a shot from almost the same spot on the U.S.'s next turn to give his team a 15-point lead. U.S. 39, Iran 24

Second quarter, 3:22: Love with nine points and three rebounds early but misses his latest attempt.

I like the U.S.'s lineup right now of Billups-Rose-Granger-Durant-Love. Let's see how long they stick with it. U.S. 35, Iran 19

Second quarter, 4:09: A deep lob from Durant is caught by Westbrook and put in for two.

ESPN's Fran Fraschilla compliments Haddadi on the telecast by saying the big man could be a third-string center on any NBA team. Or at least I think it was a compliment U.S. 35, Iran 19

Second quarter, 4:45: Love continuing just an outstanding tournament off the bench, knocking down a three from the corner. Not enough can be said for his contributions in short spurts for the U.S. U.S. 33, Iran 19

Second quarter, 5:20: Kazemi knocks down a three to make it a nine-point game. But Love scores on the other end off a tip-in to put it back to 11. U.S. 30, Iran 19

Second quarter, 7:24: Curry sits down to think about his mistake and Danny Granger comes in for the U.S.

Kazemi knocks down two free throws and Iran follows up the next possession with two more freebies from Haddadi. U.S. 26, Iran 16

Second quarter, 7:30: Curry with another steal, but gets too fancy and throws it out of bounds on a behind-the-back pass. Every player on Team USA shares the same expression: "Why?"

Kevin Love checks in. U.S. 24, Iran 13

Second quarter, 8:54: Gordon finds his groove from two games back and starts the period with a three.

The U.S. forces a quick turnover and Westbrook scores on a breakaway layup. This could be the beginning of the end for Iran. U.S. 24, Iran 13

First quarter -- U.S., 19, Iran 13 Ugly possession for the U.S. to close the quarter. Yikes. Team USA commits a shot clock violation as Stephen Curry fails to get an attempt off. Rather than moving around in the halfcourt set, the U.S. players were pointing at one another and failing to move the ball, let alone their feet.

Team USA is up early, but visibly frustrated.

The team is playing much tighter on defense than it did Monday against Brazil, but isn't quite capitalizing on offense. Durant with six early points.

First quarter, 51 seconds: A steal leads to a Gay dunk for the U.S. After the bucket, Team USA turns on the press and quickly forces a turnover.

After a few turns up-and-down the court, Chandler scores on a put-back dunk off a Westbrook miss. U.S. 19, Iran 10

First quarter, 2:45: Rose intercepts a pass at the top of the key and sprints down court before being intentionally fouled by the Iranians on the break.

Rose hits 1-of-2 and the U.S. keeps the ball. U.S. 15, Iran 10

First quarter, 3:07: U.S. gets some reserves in -- Tyson Chandler, Rudy Gay and Eric Gordon are now in.

Haddadi shows some range knocking down the face-up jumper, but Gordon responds almost instantly with a lay-up in traffic the other way. U.S. 14, Iran 10

First quarter, 3:51: Billups with the basket and his first points of the game. Chauncey is really asserting himself on offense this tournament. He's the U.S.' second-leading scorer through three games with 11.7 points per game.

Iran knocks down two free throws to make it a three-point game. U.S. 11, Iran 8

First quarter, 4:41: Iguodala gets it going with a three in transition.

U.S. starting to trap on defense and really put some pressure on the ball. Players might need a breather soon if they keep this pace up. U.S. 9, Iran 6

First quarter, 6:14: Durant responds quickly with a three to give the advantage back to the U.S.

Odom and Haddadi fighting for position on every play under the hoop. Wouldn't be surprised to see both of them in foul trouble in a matter of minutes. U.S. 6, Iran 5

First quarter, 6:49: Haddadi with Iran's first points. The big man called for steps next time down the floor. You have to take the good with the bad.

Billups with a bad shot from beyond the arc and Iran makes the U.S. pay. Kamrani with a three to give Iran the lead. U.S. 3, Iran 5

First quarter, 8:15: Davari's three-point attempt misses the rim and Durant's trey is off target as well.

But on the next possession, K.D. scores on a bucket and is fouled by Haddadi, leading to a three-point play. U.S. 3, Iran 0

First quarter, 9:22: And we are underway. U.S. with some great defensive pressure to start off the game, forcing a turnover. But Kevin Durant tosses it out of bounds on the other end to cancel out the positive play. U.S. 0, Iran 0

First quarter, 10:00: Why mess with success? The U.S. is sticking with the Odom-Durant-Iguodala-Rose-Billups line-up. Iran starts Javad Davari, Mehdi Kamrani, Arsalan Kazemi, Moosa Nabipour and Hamed Haddadi.

Although the outcome of today's game might not be in suspense, there are a few things Team USA needs to accomplish before concluding pool play. For starters, they still need some cohesion on defense. Coach K will likely use the next two games to work out the kinks. The U.S. could also use some work in its halfcourt sets. In the closing minutes against Brazil on Monday, the U.S. players looked like they didn't know what to do or who to go to. Durant or Billups will likely be the players the U.S. depends on to shoot in crunch time. U.S. 0, Iran 0


With a tough test against Brazil in its rearview mirror, Team USA pushes forward this afternoon (tip-off at noon) when it takes on Iran in the fourth game of pool play at the FIBA World Championship in Turkey.

The U.S. (3-0), who needs one more win to clinch a first-place finish in Group B, squeaked out a win Monday when Leandro Barbosa's last-second attempt bounced off the rim to give the Americans a 70-68 victory over Brazil. Kevin Durant, once again, played the role of hero, finishing with game-highs of 27 points and 10 rebounds.

Although Iran (1-2) will not put up the same type of fight, Monday's game was a wake-up call for the U.S., who collapsed on defense and settled for too many bad shots during their first real challenge in Turkey.

The U.S. is likely to start Lamar Odom, Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, Derrick Rose and Chauncey Billups, but look for Tyson Chandler or Kevin Love to come off the bench to bang with Iranian center Hamed Haddadi, who plays for the Memphis Grizzlies. In all likelihood, the U.S. should cruise to its third double-digit victory of the tournament before facing Tunisia on Thursday. Expect coach Mike Krzyzewski to turn up the defensive pressure early to make up for his team's lackluster effort on Monday.

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