The United States men's basketball team survived its biggest test in exhibition play against Spain by a score of 100-78, roaring back from a first-half deficit to win the final tuneup before the London Olympics begin.
Spain gave the Americans a scare in front of a hostile Barcelona crowd, pulling ahead in the first half, but Carmelo Anthony and company came roaring back to take a seven-point lead at the break.
Mike Krzyzewski's squad squashed the Spaniards' upset bid in the third quarter, taking a 15-point lead by the time the third-quarter buzzer sounded.
Slow starts have plagued this bunch throughout much of this exhibition tour, and there could be some disappointment in the future if that doesn't change. That possibility is increased against Spain more than other opponents, as the Spanish squad hung around without Marc Gasol on the floor.
Foul trouble has been a huge problem for the Americans as well. Tyson Chandler got into trouble early, picking up three fouls before halftime, which caused the interior defense to suffer greatly.
Suffer greatly is an understatement. Pau Gasol and Serge Ibaka had their way down low for most of the matchup, and it could get even uglier when Pau's little brother joins in on the fun.
Luckily for the Americans, there is plenty of time to hit their stride before a prospective matchup against Spain that actually means something.
Jose Calderon found Ibaka for an easy two points early on. Unfortunately for Spain, a hot first quarter didn't translate to a win.
The Fake Bill Walton Twitter account noted that Anthony carried the United States on Tuesday against Spain when nobody else could find the bottom of the net:
Melo is scoring all the points for USA. Gasol is getting the ball all he wants for Spain. USA is winning. Everyone is happy except Kobe.— Not Bill Walton (@NotBillWalton) July 24, 2012
Yahoo! Sports' Marc Spears tweeted what all those who watched were thinking. The officiating was rather inconsistent in Barcelona:
Is this making you appreciate NBA referees?— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) July 24, 2012
The Not SportsCenter Twitter account touched on Kevin Love's largely irrelevant performance. Given the lack of height on the U.S. roster, the Minnesota Timberwolves' star needs to rise to the occasion and play better inside:
USA vs. Spain: Kevin Love's looking like he's going to make a great water boy during the Olympics— NOT SportsCenter (@NOTSportsCenter) July 24, 2012
Bleacher Report's own Steven Cook knows how great it is to watch this team. The supreme athleticism and speed is something to marvel at:
It's just a treat being able to watch KD and LeBron fling the ball back and forth to each other in transition.— Steven Cook (@stevencookBR) July 24, 2012
Philadelphia 76ers player Spencer Hawes let us know just how bad play-by-play guy Mark Jones' pun was about Anthony being as wet as a Barcelona fountain when he was knocking down shot after shot...or something along those lines:
That was the worst joke about the fountain and carmelo I have ever heard.— Spencer Hawes (@spencerhawes00) July 24, 2012
Deciding Factor: USA's Third-Quarter Dominance
The United States was up by just seven points at halftime, but the NBA superstars turned it around after the break. Spain was unable to overcome the insane pressure of the USA's half-court defense in the third quarter.
If the Americans are going to run roughshod over the competition in the Olympics, they'll need to do exactly what they did today on the defensive end—and then some. LeBron James and company are at their best when they effectively use high-pressure defense to create offensive opportunities in transition.
Game MVP: Carmelo Anthony
Anthony didn't show his face much in the second half, but he is a large reason why the Americans were able to keep pace with Spain over the first two quarters despite the lackadaisical start.
The New York Knicks' star poured in 27 points in three quarters and let the rest of his teammates deal with holding the lead. It seems as though coming off the bench is working for 'Melo and the rest of the group.
The real deal, ladies and gentlemen. After five warm-up games, the United States men's basketball team heads to London to begin its quest for an Olympic gold medal.
Game 1 comes against Tony Parker and France on Sunday, July 29 at 9:30 a.m. EDT.
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