Despite some inconsistent play, the United States earned a 95-78 win over Brazil on Saturday night in Chicago.
The exhibition was the team's second stop on its tour before the 2014 FIBA World Cup begins later in the month.
With Paul George's injury and Kevin Durant's withdrawal from Team USA, head coach Mike Krzyzewski has lost two of his best forwards. Not only do these games serve as a warm-up for the tournament, but they're also Coach K's chance to tweak the roster and figure out how to compensate without George and Durant.
"It's one of those things; you don't replace Kevin Durant," Krzyzewski told reporters. "You look different. And so we have today and [Friday] to look different before we play a really good team."
One player Krzyzewski doesn't have to worry about is Anthony Davis. The New Orleans Pelicans' big man was arguably the United States' best player on Saturday. He displayed the entire package, running the floor well, throwing down thunderous dunks and ferociously defending the paint.
Davis led all scorers with 20 points, per a tweet from the NBA:
Final: USA defeats BRA 95-78. @AntDavis23 led all scorers with 20 points.— NBA (@NBA) August 17, 2014
Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears said that the official box score was amended to give him 23 points:
Corrected official USA box score says: Anthony Davis had 23 points, eight rebounds and five blocks while James Harden added 15 points.— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) August 17, 2014
ESPN.com's Royce Young used one word to describe the 21-year-old:
Anthony Davis is plain outrageous.— Royce Young (@royceyoung) August 17, 2014
The dunk below is a proper representation of his performance:
Davis even put his body on the line in the fourth quarter as he chased down a loose ball. He jumped into the stands, walking back to the court to a loud "USA! USA!" chant, per NBA.com's Steve Aschburner:
Outrageous, scary spill over 1st row by Anthony Davis sparks "USA! USA!" chant. Appears OK.— Steve Aschburner (@AschNBA) August 17, 2014
Although Davis had the best individual performance, the night belonged to Derrick Rose.
The Chicago Bulls' point guard received a warm reception from the United Center crowd. SLAM Magazine posted a Vine of his introduction, which elicited a massive ovation in the arena:
Rose's recovery from a torn meniscus is one of the main storylines surrounding the national team. The 2010-11 MVP looked very good in the Blue/White scrimmage, but this was the first time he appeared in a more competitive atmosphere.
The three-time All-Star didn't get his first bucket of the game until seconds before halftime. However, the shot was worth the wait, as he covered three-quarters of the court and dropped in a floater before the buzzer.
As Turner Sports' Matt Winer tweeted out, any fears about major knee injuries sapping Rose's speed are unfounded:
This just in: Derrick Rose is still fast. #usavsbrazil— Matt Winer (@matt_winer) August 17, 2014
The U.S. took a 45-37 lead into halftime. Brazil looked to be the more cohesive unit for the most part, while the Americans boasted more pure talent.
One of the problems inherent to bringing so many All-Stars together is that they're used to being the go-to guys for their teams. That in turn has an effect on how they space the floor and which lanes they fill on the fast break.
The United States looked like a collection of great players rather than an actual team. NBA.com's John Schuhmann was particularly critical of the USA's half-court offense:
USA not getting into its offense early in the 2nd quarter. Gotta be able to get better looks in the halfcourt.— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) August 17, 2014
That continued into the third quarter, as Brazil continued creeping its way closer and closer to the United States. One of the biggest spearheads of the Brazilians' comeback attempt was Marcelo Huertas. The FC Barcelona point guard was threading some impressive passes through Team USA's defense:
After 20 min seeing PG Marcelo Huertas, I kinda sorta get why he might have $8M buyout from FC Barcelona team. Rubio weeps at his passes.— Steve Aschburner (@AschNBA) August 17, 2014
Brazil closed the gap to five points after three quarters, with the score 68-63 in favor of the U.S. As Schuhmann pointed out, the game was trending steadily one way, and it wasn't toward the hosts:
Since end of 1st quarter, score is Brazil 48, USA 39.— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) August 17, 2014
Whatever Krzyzewski said in the huddle in between quarters had a profound effect, though. On the strength of a 10-0 run to start the fourth, the United States opened up a 78-63 lead. From there, the U.S. cruised the rest of the way.
NBA.com's Lang Whitaker joked that Neymar might have been able to stem the tide for Brazil:
Brasil better put Neymar in if they want to make a run.— Lang Whitaker (@langwhitaker) August 17, 2014
Coach K did get a bit of a scare when Davis limped off the court with a little less than five minutes to play, per Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears:
Anthony Davis departed with a slight limp with 4:44 left in game.— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) August 17, 2014
Davis looked to be fine, and his exit was only precautionary.
The United States has two training sessions ahead of its upcoming exhibition next Wednesday against the Dominican Republic. Two days later, the Americans play Puerto Rico and then finish up with Slovenia on Aug. 26.
Team USA isn't firing on all cylinders just yet, but it looks strong enough at this point that the World Cup shouldn't be a cause for concern. The team will continue improving the more time its players spend together over the next few weeks.