WASHINGTON, D.C.–Anybody who knows USA men’s basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski knows the type of reaction he would have to the 27-17 lead Brazil held over the Americans after the first quarter of play, a span of 10 minutes.
Duke basketball junior guard Tyler Thornton who tweeted during the game, “Can only imagine what coach n them got to say right now. I bet it aint pretty lol.”
Despite that sluggish beginning, Team USA outscored the Brazilians 63-42 in the remaining three periods for a 80-69 victory as Krzyzewski’s squad concluded its exhibition tour in the United States, now heading to Manchester, England to continue tune-up games there.
“I thought they outplayed us in that first period. They were getting by our defense,” Krzyzewski said. “We didn’t have defensive intensity and if this team doesn’t have that we’re going to get scored on.”
The 1992 Dream Team only trailed an opponent once–a short two-point deficit to Croatia in the gold medal game–but Krzyzewski does not think this team has any sort of invincible-complex. With NBA talent on the Brazilian squad, including former teammates of USA players such as Anderson Varejao, who played on the Cavaliers with LeBron James, the Americans were familiar with the high level of play their opponents would bring Monday evening.
“I don’t think our team needs to be humbled. I think they are. They’re not going on the court thinking nobody else is going to show up against them,” Krzyzewsi said. “They have deep respect for Brazil’s team.”
James noted to the team that Varejao–who grabbed 13 rebounds–is as good as anybody on the offensive boards, Krzyzewski said.
Team USA’s starting center, Tyson Chandler, collected just one missed shot but said rotating on the glass takes time and is a work in progress. The frontcourt ultimately limited Brazil to 32 points in the paint compared to Team USA’s 40, but Brazil outrebounded the United States by eight.
While the Americans have only had two weeks practicing together, there has been some continuity with players and coaches, with Chandler saying his experience with Krzyzewski has made working with this year’s team easier as they finished their second game in this season, so to speak.
“This is my third tenure with Coach K–every time I learn so much from him,” Chandler said.
Both Chandler and Krzyzewski put the game in perspective with getting to play in front of their nation’s president after a weekend that included visiting Arlington National Cemetary and pregame introductions that were alternated with introductions of military personnel.
Obama visited the team during halftime, though the close nature of the game made his visit a little nerve wracking for Krzyzewski.
“He was just socializing with us. I’m not sure he knew the score of the game. I was a little bit antsy,” Krzyzewski said. “But what an honor for our team to have the president and his wife and family and for him to grace us here with his presence tonight was a fantastic gesture. He wished us godspeed.”
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