Last night Coach Mike Krzyzewski rolled out an interesting Derrick Rose, Steph Curry, James Harden, Kenneth Faried, Anthony Davis starting lineup. Brazil poses a similar, albeit weaker challenge to USA's preferred small-ball to that of Spain. Three competent NBA big men in Nene, Tiago Splitter, and Anderson Varejao. As noted by Bullets Forever, these are not end of the bench big men. It is unlikely USA will face a deeper front line in the FIBA World Cup before they hypothetically play Spain in the Gold Medal game; all due respect to Pelican center Omer Asik and Turkey.
All this to say, wow. Anthony Davis. That was a tour de force of a performance.
Davis got off to a relatively rocky start, forcing a quick turnaround jump shot on the left baseline on the first possession. An isolation opportunity against Anderson Varejao found Davis settle for a difficult 18 foot step back jumper which also missed.
Pick and roll defense, switches, and rotations were really poor between Davis and Faried. The first big highlight occurred with 3:32 remaining in the first quarter. Davis collected a loose ball and immediately initiated the fast break, passing ahead to Klay Thompson. One dribble and six strides from half court (I rewatched and counted) to the rim and Anthony Davis caught the alley-oop and slammed it home over Leandro Barbosa.
The very next trip down the court quick hands from Davis stripped Tiago Splitter under the basket, igniting another transition opportunity. Klay Thompson missed on a pretty up and under on the left block. Davis was there from the rebound jumping across the lane for a nifty left handed tip-in. I am unaware of many other human beings capable of even attempting that play.
The second quarter began with a Harden-Davis pick and pop resulting in another long jump shot from Davis, this one failed to even draw iron. Derrick Rose bricked a wide open dunk. Davis was called for a travel after trying to get from the left corner all the way to the basket without a dribble. Brazil was slowly clawing their way back into the game with a 12-3 run.
Davis caught an offensive rebound on the left elbow and immediately launched a challenged 16 footer with 23 seconds on the shot clock. That's not ideal shot selection. The very next trip Davis was bullied by Tiago Splitter on the left block for an easy up-and-under layup. Brazil had cut the led to just two points at 35-33.
After a few minutes of reserves (Plumlee playing over Andre Drummond, eye roll) Davis stepped back on the court for the final two minutes. He was promptly posterized by Splitter as Tiago split Rudy Gay and Steph Curry at the top of the key while Davis was late rotating over to defend the rim. Is this poor execution by Davis or AD under instruction from the coaching staff to avoid foul trouble? The general effort by Davis on that play was lacking.
Davis finished the first half with 8 points on 4-9 shooting. Tiago Splitter led all scorers with 10 points on an insanely efficient 5-6.
AD began the second half much as he did the first, except he drained his first touch on a jump shot over Splitter just 12 seconds into the third quarter. Brazil's first possession Davis got over (and displayed some excellent verticality) altering a Barbosa drive. Another quick pass from Steph Curry set up Davis from the right elbow for his second made jump shot over Tiago Splitter in the first three minutes. Tiago Splitter's awkward scoop shot on the left block was erased by Davis on the following Brazilian possession. The Unibrow was heating up.
Coach K rant follows
Davis took a seat on the bench after the five minute media timeout. Mason Plumlee again took the court ahead of Andre Drummond. I cannot rationalize this decision except to assume that Coach K is using Plumlee over Drummond as a recruiting tool for Duke with high school players right now. "Come to Duke and you dramatically increase the chances you play on Team USA." Austin Rivers is waiting by the phone if that's the case...
After three quarters Team USA was up just five points 68-63. Despite the coaching staff likely wanting to play reserves to determine a pecking order for cuts going forward the starters were necessary to secure the victory. Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Klay Thompson, Kenneth Faried, and Anthony Davis took the court for Team USA. Chandler Parsons quickly replaced Faried as Brazil elected to sit both Splitter and Nene to begin the quarter. Anthony Davis took a disgusting tumble over the first row to make a save. Twitter was not pleased.
Losing AD to an injury in this game would result in me wanting to ban not only FIBA, but any other country getting to play basketball ever.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) August 17, 2014
USA Basketball almost just spun completely off its axis...— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) August 17, 2014
A "U-S-A" chant started when Davis emerged unscathed from the wreckage of spectators and seats. It appeared to me that the court side seats were as close as they always are for NBA games. (Throws shade at Brian Windhorst)
Davis was fouled the following possession on a put back dunk attempt. Tiago Splitter and Kenneth Faried both entered the game before the first free throw. Splitter would likely have wished he hadn't. Davis calmly buried both free throws, extending the lead to 10 and his personal point total to 14.
The next possession Davis did this, leading to a fast break and three point play by James Harden.
Anthony Davis blocks it with his left hand and saves the ball from going out. He's not one of us https://t.co/n6ZKYC9ltp— Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles) August 17, 2014
After Tiago Splitter threw the ball out of bounds attempting to pass over AD's outstretched arms the below happened.
Davis drained a long 18 footer over Splitter at the top of the key off a Harden pick and pop on the next US possession. Team USA was on a 12-2 run and Anthony Davis had scored six of those points; Harden and Klay Thompson each pitched in three. The next trip down the court Davis got a piece of Nene's jump shot attempt. For his final basket of the night AD redirected the ball off the glass with his left hand over Nene, collected the rebound on the right side of the hoop and quickly threw it down before Splitter or Nene could react.
While fighting for position on a free throw rebound it appears that Kenneth Faried clocked Davis below the belt with 5:11 remaining in the fourth quarter. Davis limped down the court for a few trips before being replaced by Mason Plumlee with 4:44 to go, Team USA was up 87-68 at this point and the final result was never in doubt.
Here is the official Team USA box score for the night. Davis led all players with 20 points and 5 blocked shots. Only Anderson Varejao and Kenneth Faried (9 a piece) bested Davis's 8 rebounds. Of note is Davis going 5-5 in the second half, including going 3-3 on jump shots and 2-2 from the free throw line after his shaky start. Maybe it was the nerves of playing in Chicago for the first time since the 2011 McDonald's All-American Game. Regardless, Davis was a much more composed player after the half.
[Edit: Some advanced stats for those interested]
USA plus-minus from last night. They were pretty darn good with Kenneth Faried on the floor: pic.twitter.com/d1WRDKm3Tu— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) August 17, 2014
Team USA moves onto New York today. Their full schedule can be found here.
- Monday, August 18, 1 pm Central, ESPN2 - "Hoops for Troops" at West Point
- Wednesday, August 20, 6 pm Central, NBATV - Dominican Republic at Madison Square Garden
- Friday, August 22, 6 pm Central, ESPN2 - Puerto Rico at Madison Square Garden
- Tuesday, August 26, 1 pm Central, ESPN2 - Slovenia at Gran Canaria, Spain
- Saturday, August 30, 2:30 pm Central, ESPN - Finland at Bilbao, Spain (Beginning of FIBA World Cup)
I find it pretty unbelievable that ESPN will usurp the opening weekend of college football in the middle of the day to put the US blowing out Finland on their flagship network. That's a lot of Anthony Davis on your television in August. Remember how Anthony Davis made the dog days of summer bearable next year.