For the second straight exhibition game, the men's U.S. basketball team's starting lineup struggled at the outset. Threes were hoisted without even attempting to probe the defense in order to score inside. Meanwhile, Brazil was getting to the rim and scoring. Brazil took a 17-7 lead in the first quarter.
When Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant entered the fray, the momentum changed. The U.S. utilized its pressure defense on route to forcing a whopping 23 turnovers from the Olympic-qualifying squad from South America. Those Brazilian turnovers were the difference in the game. Brazil shot over 50% from the field, often getting open shots. The Americans only shot 40% from the field and a pitiful 25% on 6 for 24 from beyond the arc.
In fact, the U.S. was a pathetic 1 for 12 from three-point range in the first half. The fear heading into the Olympics is not only the very real possibility that the U.S. will lay an egg from beyond the perimeter, but that they'll continue to shoot from distance despite the pile of bricks they've amassed.
So far, this team has only shown the ability to get inside with dribble penetration and in transition. Its low field goal percentage is a result. But the defensive pressure, especially from the second quarter on, was scary. A 20-5 second quarter gave the Americans a five point lead, 37-32, at the half.
LeBron James's game-high 30 points kept the U.S. ahead in the second half. LeBron played a game-high 33 minutes, nearly 8 minutes more than any other American. The Brazilians had four players scoring double figures. Alex Garcia was hot from the field with his awkward , cross-body, left-handed shot. Marcelo Huertas had 13 assists to go with his 11 points.
After the Americans ran to a double digit lead in the third, Brazil traversed back to cut the margin to 6 late in the fourth. But Brazil couldn't shake the U.S.'s pressure defense. The U.S. won 80-69.