Saturday, August 21, 2010
Russell Westbrook staves off elimination? Scores 12 in US' tough win over Lithuania 77-61
USA Men’s World Championship Team Battles Back Against Lithuania
Aug. 21, 2010 • Madrid, Spain
The 2010 USA Men’s World Championship Team overcame icy cold shooting in the first half, but never gave up and rebounded in the second half to earn a tough 77-61 victory over Lithuania on Saturday night inside the Magic Box in Madrid, Spain. Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder) led all scorers on the night with 15 points, while Rudy Gay (Memphis Grizzlies) and Player of the Game Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder) checked in for 14 and 12 points, respectively.
Player of the Game Russell Westbrook not only pitched in 12 points, he added some defensive intensity off the bench.Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
The U.S. will face defending world champion Spain tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. local (3:00 p.m. EDT live on ESPNU with a rebroadcast on ESPN2 at 11:00 p.m. EDT), before heading to Athens for its final exhibition game against Greece on Aug. 25 at 7:00 p.m. local (12:00 p.m. EDT live on ESPN).
“For us it was an outstanding test because most of our guys have not played internationally on foreign soil and to get adjusted to the game, they’re going to need to play at a higher level, it was just a good experience for us,” said USA and Duke University head coach Mike Krzyzewski. “Lithuania with its rich basketball tradition, they play with great pride. We had a first quarter where we were 3-for-21 and hopefully we’ll not have anything like that again. But I thought our guys fought and played really well in the second half so it’s part of the adjustment, it’s our second game, our first overseas, so we have a lot to learn before Turkey.”
Coach K's post-game team talk
Three minutes into the third quarter Durant hit a turnaround jumper to give the American men their first lead of the game, 36-34. From there the lead swapped hands seven times and with 2:44 to go in the third, Lithuania was back in the lead by a point, 49-48.
Danny Granger (Indiana Pacers) drove to the hoop to give the U.S. the lead for good, 50-49, at 2:29, but it was a play involving a fast-breaking Gay 20 seconds later that really turned the tide. After Rajon Rondo (Boston Celtics) disrupted a shot by Lithuania, the U.S. got the ball and Gay was streaking down the court when he was intentionally fouled by Mantas Kalnietis. In the confusion that ensued, Linas Kleiza was called for a technical. Gay sunk both his free throw tries and then Eric Gordon (Los Angeles Clippers) stepped up to take the two for the tech and swished in both of his tries to push the USA advantage to 54-49.
“That helped us a lot,” said Gay. “Those four straight foul shots really got us into position where we can play and be the aggressor.”
Granger’s basket and the four free throws were the start of a game-deciding 17-0 run that was capped by a Westbrook layup that left the U.S. in control 65-49. The USA held Lithuania to a single free throw over a span of 7:25 as the USA’s opponents finally knocked down a three with 5:19 to play.
“I think the key for me and the rest of the team is coming out and having a defensive mindset and I think that was a key for me, just coming out and defending,” said Westbrook, who knocked down 4-of-5 from the field and hit both of his 3-point attempts. “I think if we defend our offense will take care of itself, we’ll be able to get into the lane and kick it out for open shots. I was just able when they kicked it out to knock down some shots, then try and get into the lane and get everybody else some shots as well.”
The Americans went up by as many as 20 points, 75-55, before cruising through the final minutes for the win.
“Our team did not push the ball in the first quarter,” said Krzyzewski. “When we got Derrick (Rose) in and Russell (Westbrook), the tempo of the game picked up for us. We were playing a very slow tempo and if we do that then we’re not going to have a chance to win. We have to play a little bit faster tempo. Then in the second half I thought Rajon did a good job of doing it. So our bench came through for us – Gordon, Westbrook, Rose, Rudy Gay, they all played very well coming off the bench.
"It’s a good thing our defense was pretty good throughout the whole game or else we could have been down big in the first half,” he added.
Shooting a frigid 14.3 percent (3-21 FGs) in the first quarter, the U.S. defense helped keep Lithuania within striking distance, 15-7. Trailing 19-10, the Europeans’ largest lead of the game, with 6:16 to play in the half, the American men got its first three of the night from Andre Igoudala (Philadelphia 76ers) at 6:05. That got the team going as it ended the first half on an 18-10 run and trailed by just a point, 29-28, heading into the locker room. The U.S. upped its shooting percentage overall in the first half to 28.6 percent (10-35 FGs) after hitting 7-of-14 from the field in the second stanza.
“No. No, it couldn’t have gone any worse in the first quarter,” said Chauncey Billups (Denver Nuggets), who went 1-of-4 from the line and 0-of-3 from 3-point in the first half. “After I missed my third free throw in a row, I just started laughing. Like, ‘whoa, are you serious?’ But it was a great test. We had to fight through some things. We dealt with some adversity today. I’m pretty sure the coaches learned more about the team today. There will be some times like that where we just can’t get it going. The key is going to be that we have to not let the other team get it going.
The U.S. ended the game shooting 40.3 percent (27-67 FGs) from the field and 36.8 percent (7-19 3pt FGs) from beyond the arc and outrebounded Lithuania 40-33. The USA’s defense held Lithuania to just under 40 percent (25-63 FGs) from the field and 23.1 percent (3-13 3pt FGs) from 3-point, while forcing 21 turnovers and getting 15 steals.
The 2010 USA World Championship Team assistant coaches are Syracuse University’s Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim, Portland Trail Blazers head coach Nate McMillan and Toronto Raptors head mentor Jay Triano.
The 13 finalists for the 2010 USA World Championship Team are scheduled to play Spain at the Magic Box tomorrow night before traveling to Athens on Aug. 23. The USA will close out its four-game exhibition schedule against Greece in Athens on Aug. 25.
“I’m looking forward to it,” said Tyson Chandler (Dallas Mavericks) regarding tomorrow night’s game. “It’s going to be big time, playing on their soil. We know their fans are going to be excited. We know their team is going to be excited playing in front of their home crowd. We couldn’t have scripted it any better for ourselves to go into the World Championship, into the tournament … having to play a tough team like Lithuania then Spain then Greece in Greece. Playing all these teams on their home soil is going to give us a different level of play from them and their energy than we’re going to face.”
All four of the USA’s friendlies are part of the new Global Community Cup, which will include all USA Basketball exhibition games played outside of formal international competitions. Along with the games, the Global Community Cup features a social responsibility element that will highlight USA Basketball’s commitment to giving back to communities in the U.S. and abroad.
The official 12-man USA roster that will compete in the 2010 FIBA World Championship, which will be played Aug. 28-Sept. 12 in Turkey, must be submitted to FIBA at the technical meeting that normally is held the day prior to the start of the competition.
Kevin Love played 3 min for 2 pts.
Additional Quotes >> USA 77, Lithuania 61
Aug. 21, 2010 • Madrid, Spain
USA head coach Mike Kryzyzewski
About the game:
For us it was an outstanding test because most of our guys have not played internationally on foreign soil and to get adjusted to the game that they’re going to need to play at a higher level, it was just a good experience for us. Lithuania with its rich basketball tradition, they play with great pride. We had a first quarter where we were 3-for-21 and hopefully we’ll not have anything like that again. But I thought our guys fought and played really well in the second half so it’s part of the adjustment, it’s our second game, our first overseas, so we have a lot to learn before Turkey.
When you made the change from Rondo to Rose gave more options to players in the game:
Well I think it wasn’t just Rondo, I think our team did not push the ball in the first quarter. When we got Derrick (Rose) in and Russell (Westbrook), the tempo of the game picked up for us. We were playing a very slow tempo and if we do that then we’re not going to have a chance to win. We have to play a little bit faster tempo. Then in the second half I thought Rajon did a good job of doing it. So our bench came through for us – Gordon, Westbrook, Rose, Rudy Gay, they all played very well coming off the bench.
Looking at that first half from a teaching perspective and a learning experience for the players, what good can come out of that?
I think it’s one of the those experiences when you’re going through it you don’t want to be going through it, but after you go through it, it’d a good thing to go through it. First of all, the environment. It’s just a different environment, the international game. Just how you warm up. I don’t think we warmed up as hard as we need to warm up, and we didn’t start off the game fast. These are all learning things. These guys are really good players but Lithuania was more ready at the start of the game. It’s a good thing our defense was pretty good throughout the whole game or else we could have been down big in the first half. It reminded me of Beijing and whenever we let a team get close we didn’t convert in transition, whether it be a blocked shot, missed dunk, a fumbled ball, those give life to a team and we have to cut down on those type of things. There are about 30 less possessions in a 40 minute game than a 48 minute game; we have to adjust to that.
The team’s quickness seemed to be a big advantage, Westbrook showed that when he came in. Can you elaborate on that and how that took over the game?
He gave us energy. He’s been doing that in practice every day. His energy, along with Rose, Gordon and Gay really picked us up. We need to have that energy at the start of the ball game I think we’re feeling our way into the ball game, we have to start off strong.
Looking ahead to Spain, specifically can I ask about Rubio, he seemed to be more physically developed that when you saw him last in China?
I’m really impressed with Ricky’s physical development. He’s gotten stronger. He has an amazing feel for the game. He’s getting older, you can tell he’s worked hard. I watched him last night against Lithuania and was very impressed with him being able to be physical, him being able to set his team up. He’s an outstanding guard and he’s just going to keep getting better and better.
Talk about the difficulty of hitting shots in the first quarter. Do you think it was because the court was pretty slippery?
I wouldn’t make an excuse that we shot poorly because of the court. I thought we were a little tight, they (Lithuania) played well defensively, and then they’re accustomed to getting more shots in a game. So the fact is on this team there’s 40 minutes instead of 48 and you’re on a team that has 12 good players, you’re not going to get as many shots so it makes each shot a little bit more important.
We were just having trouble shooting the ball but for the most part, our defense was outstanding.
~ Danny Granger
You said that perhaps the best thing tonight of your team was defense, what do you think you have to improve as a team and what was the worst thing you did tonight as a team?
We have to improve on everything. We’ve only been together a couple of week and this is our second exhibition game, so everything. We have to keep improving in every area as a team including getting to know one another. These guys have not played together year after year so there’s not that continuity or the chemistry. There’s the attitude, a great attitude to try and do that but they have to get as good feel for one another. That’s why games like this are so important and the game tomorrow is so important.
Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Russ, a lot of people had you on the list to be cut, talk about if it’s gratifying to have a performance like this when you’re fighting for a job on this team.
Well I try to guard every night and I try not to pay attention with what’s going on with the cuts, who’s getting cut, how many minutes you’re playing. Coach K has asked me to just go out and play hard and give it all I’ve got. That’s what I’ve been trying to do for the time I’ve been here in Madrid, New York and Las Vegas.
What was the key to the game?
First of all I think the key for me and the rest of the team is coming out and having a defensive mindset and I think that was a key for me, just coming out and defending. I think if we defend our offense will take care of itself, we’ll be able to get into the lane and kick it out for open shots. I was just able when they kicked it out to knock down some shots, then try and get into the lane and get everybody else some shots as well.
Could you feel the energy change when you went in and you played good defense?
Definitely, that was a key. My main objective coming into a game is picking the energy up, picking up the speed of the game and try to create defensive stops that lead to offensive opportunities. If the team does that it puts us in a better position to be able to score the ball and get out and get out and run.
How good it feel to hit your shots?
It definitely feels good. It felt good to knock them down and be able to feel confident and relax everybody and make sure they get easy shots and open shots.
Chauncey Billups (Denver Nuggets)
Do you think Spain will be a hard game for you?
Absolutely. Any game for us is hard. We’re still trying to get adjusted. We have a lot of guys who have no experience internationally. Tomorrow is going to be another great challenge for us. We’re playing against a well-oiled machine and we’ll be looking forward to the challenge.
Do you see any differences in the game between the international rules and NBA?
There are some very glaring differences. For one, the physicality of the game is different. It’s much different. Personally, I like that. There’s just a difference in the little calls that they call in the NBA, where here they are no calls. We have to get our guys to just play through it, be physical and be strong. If we do that, we’ve got a good chance.
Do you think tomorrow will be physical with Marc Gasol?
Oh yeah, it’ll be physical, very physical. They’re accustomed to this, this is their game. Our game is different. So they’re just going to play how they usually play and we have to change our game plan to play like them. It’s going to take some adjustment time, but we’re all in. We’ll be ready to go.
Could it have gone any worse in the first quarter?
No. No, it couldn’t. After I missed my third free throw in a row, I just started laughing. Like, ‘woah, are you serious?’ But it was a great test. We had to fight through some things. We dealt with some adversity today. I’m pretty sure the coaches learned more about the team today. There will be some times like that where we just can’t get it going. The key is going to be that we have to not let the other team get it going.
Your up-tempo seemed to change the game and really overwhelm them. Do you think that was the case?
That’s going to be our strength: speed, transition, causing turnovers. Then getting out and getting some easy baskets.
Tyson Chandler (Dallas Mavericks)
Thoughts on the game?
I thought it was a good game for us. We faced some adversity early. These are how the games are going to be played. They’re going to be played physical. It took us some time to adjust to that. But, it’s a good thing we have the opportunity to play these three exhibition games before we get into the tournament.
Anything that surprised you about the game?
We are use to our game, our style of play, our calls. I think a lot of times, we were stopping. Not only that, but defensively for us, it’s different in our game. You kind of play as the ball comes towards you. Here you got to be ready when the ball is on the other side of floor before it’s even in your area, you already have to be ready defensively.
Happy with the defense tonight?
Definitely. I think had we hit some shots, made some layups, made some free throws, it would have been a bigger margin. But, I’m kind of glad the way it went because we had like seven points and were 3-for-20 or whatever in the first quarter. You need that. You need to be able to get through that adversity. The defense stepped up and we kind of walked them down.
Thoughts on Russell Westbrook’s performance?
He was huge. He turned the game around for us. We are going to need that every single night though. Some different individual is going to need to step up every night … to give us that spark and we have it. We have enough talent for somebody to come off the bench or a starter to just be able to give us that spark and that energy.
Thoughts on playing Spain?
I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be big time, playing on their soil. We know their fans are going to be excited. We know their team is going to be excited playing in front of their home crowd. We couldn’t have scripted it any better for ourselves to go into the World Championship, into the tournament … having to play a tough team like Lithuania then Spain then Greece in Greece. Playing all these teams on their home soil is going to give us a different level of play from them and their energy than we’re going to face.
Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder)
On the physicality of the game:
We played through it today and I think we’ll be prepared for tomorrow. It was a tough start for us, but I’m glad we finished the game off well.
On his game:
I just gotta keep working, continue to keep doing better and staying positive no matter what.
Do you think the team has improved since you played France?
Yeah, we have. We’ve been practicing hard. It didn’t show tonight in the first half, but in the second half we fought through some adversity after missing a lot of shots. Overall we did it decent.
Was the first quarter good for you in terms of learning the international game?
Oh yeah. It’s why we’re playing these exhibition games, to get you ready for that. It’s a little different, more physical. They kind of hit us in the mouth early on, but we got used to it. I think I did better. I think it’s just a matter of me being aggressive and staying positive.
Rudy Gay (Memphis Grizzlies)
On entering the game and changing the tempo of the game:
Coming off the bench, it’s kind of your job. You have to get to be that person where when they come off, you can’t let anything lapse. You can’t lack anything. I try to go out there to force the tempo and try to force the other team to play our game.
Did your teammates tease you about that missed dunk?
Oh yeah (laughs). It was humid in there. I wasn’t the only one slipping, it’s just that I happened to be by myself when it happened.
Was the ball slippery?
It was an adjustment for us. The climate is very different than what we’re used to. We went out there and had to adjust. We played bad in the first half, but that was one of the things we had to adjust to in the first half.
Do you think the international game is tougher than the NBA?
I wouldn’t say it’s tougher, I would say it’s different. Obviously you could see the difference between the NBA and Europe. You just have to get use to it. I think we can adjust, it was just an eye-opening experience for us.
On the momentum swing with the technical and intentional fouls:
Yeah. We needed anything. In these games you have to feed off of whatever you can and that’s one of those things that we fed off of. I thought Russ (Westbrook) came in and really helped us out in the second half. We forced the tempo. That helped us a lot. Those four straight foul shots really got us into position where we can play and be the aggressor.
They were getting a lot of easy baskets, but we’re professionals, too. We knew what we were doing wrong and we had to stop that. We made their shots tougher. We defended better and we came out with the win.
On his consistency with the USA Team:
Before you come out here, one of the things you have to do is that you can’t worry about … you don’t know what sets you’re going to run. You don’t know what’s going to go on and you really don’t know if you’re going to make it. I had to make it my point to myself to be in the best shape and try to do all the things that I need to do and I made the best of it.
Danny Granger (Indiana Pacers)
Thoughts on the game?
I think we just got off to a slow start as a team. We finished well but we can’t have starts like that. But, I think it was good for us to learn … that was the first time we were playing internationally overseas. It was a good experience for us.
Was the feel of the game different that you expected?
Very different. They let a lot more go than usually goes on in the NBA. So it’s an adjustment we have to get used to.
Thoughts on the team defense?
Defense was pretty good. We were just having trouble shooting the ball but for the most part, our defense was outstanding.
Thoughts on playing Spain tomorrow?
It’s going to be another challenge. Hopefully, we’ll play a lot better in the first half.
Andre Iguodala (Philadelphia 76ers)
Thoughts on the game?
I think it was good for us to have some adversity and see how we respond to it. We didn’t panic. Usually you panic and the other team builds the lead. We cut it down little by little which is how we need to play. We try to wear them out a little bit. Russell Westbrook was great for us tonight. He came in and set the tone for us with energy and from there we took off. So it was a good win.
Was there anything that surprised you about the game?
It was a little physical. They let those guys play so we got to know we have to win playing their game. It makes us focus in a little bit more.
Thoughts on the team defense?
We just have to communicate as a team. Individually I feel comfortable out there and shutting down the guys. In order for us to win, we have to be good defensively collectively. We got to communicate.
Looking forward to tomorrow’s game vs. Spain?
Very excited about tomorrow night. It should be fun.
Lamar Odom (Los Angeles Lakers)
What did USA head Mike Krzyzewski talk to you about at halftime?
He didn’t really say much, I really don’t think there was much to say. We have to learn how to stay poised. All families have to work through adversity, even our family. Especially families that haven’t been together for a long time. It was a good test for us. It’s good for us to play competitive basketball right now in these exhibition games before the tournament to kind of get us ready for the competition and atmosphere that we’re about to face. It’s just learning.
On being down by just a point after shooting less than 29 percent in the first half:
Sometimes you press and you try to get it all back in one play. Basketball is a snowball effect a lot. You take your time and get one stop, then you’ll get a layup, then you’ll get a free throw and people start to make shots and so on and so on. But when you try to get it back on one play, it hardly ever works.
Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls)
Thoughts on the game?
It was a different game. The atmosphere is totally different. It challenged us especially early in the game. We know that we can still come together and win games. It was a great challenge for us tonight going out there having to come back from a large lead and win the game. This definitely can help us and it’s going to prepare us for the journey.
Is this a good lesson that defense can keep you in games even when you’re not making shots?
That’s what we’re trying to do. We got so many great players on the team where we are making the game harder than what it really is. Offensively, we’re trying to play to each other’s strengths but this is our first month, first couple of months playing with each other … it’s hard but I think we are going to get in a groove and it’s going to be hard trying to stop us.
Thoughts on playing Spain tomorrow?
I can’t wait. The atmosphere once again is going to be crazy and it’s something I will never forget.