USA Basketball tops Brazil, but lack of size shows in 95-78 win

DeMarcus Cousins doesn’t like being a spectator.

The Sacramento Kings starting center would rather be on the basketball court, in the middle of all the action – both literally and figuratively.  Unfortunately for Cousins, he was sidelined from Saturday night’s exhibition contest between USA Basketball and the Brazilian National Team.

The U.S. soundly defeated Brazil, 95-78, but Cousins’ absence was evident.  With a starting frontline that featured Anthony Davis and Kenneth Faried, the Brazilians took advantage of USA’s lack of size.  Brazil’s starting frontline of Tiago Splitter and Nene combined to score 27 points.

Additional observations and analysis of Saturday’s game are down below.

  • Rudy Gay did not start, but he was the first sub off USA’s bench for head coach Mike Krzyzewski.  The Sacramento Kings starting small forward played 12 minutes and finished with just five points on 1-of-3 shooting.
  • Gay did not impact the game offensively, but he did provide the U.S. some solid minutes on defense.  The Sacramento Kings veteran played power forward at times for the U.S. and was able to hold his own on occasion against NBA caliber big men like Anderson Varejao.
  • It took three quarters and change for the American men to find their flow.  They entered the fourth quarter with just a five-point lead (68-63).  They looked disjointed offensively for much of the game until opening a final frame on a 10-0 run that basically sealed the victory for them.
  • USA’s struggles likely had largely to do with the departure of Kevin Durant from the roster.  Krzyzewski was building his offense to play off the reigning MVP and now USA has to regroup without him.
  • With Durant no longer on the roster, James Harden and Anthony Davis shouldered most of the offensive load for USA.  Harden scored 18 points, 11 of which he totaled at the free-throw line.  Davis scored 20 points, with most of them seeming to come off put-backs and alley-oops.
  • Davis was at his best on defense.  The New Orleans Pelicans power forward is such a game changer on that side of the floor thanks to his length, athleticism and strong instincts.  His game-high five blocked shots garnered oohs and aahs from the Chicago crowd on Saturday evening.
  • Kenneth Faried’s play was just about as impressive as Harden and Davis’ performances on Saturday night.  In a starting role, the Denver Nuggets power forward scored 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting and grabbed a game-high nine boards.  He’s not known for his offense, but Faried did showcase a nice little right jump hook at times for Team USA.
  • Kyrie Irving also stood out from the pack as one of the key reserve’s of USA’s bench on Saturday.  There were moments when Irving was able to break down Brazil’s defense and finish gracefully at the rim.  The Cleveland Cavaliers starting point guard also stood out by playing sound defense against Brazil’s guards.  Irving scored six points on 3-of-5 shooting in 14 minutes of action.
  • For those wondering how Mason Plumlee did, the Brooklyn Nets big man was efficient.  He scored nine points on 3-of-3 shooting in just 15 minutes of play.
  • Krzyzewski played 12 of the 16 players remaining in the USA Basketball pool.  Andre Drummond, Gordon Hayward and DeMar DeRozan all did not play due to coach’s decision on Saturday night.

Quote of the Game

Gay on what feedback he received from coaches following Saturday’s game (via USA Basketball):

You know, they just (said) not too much, not too much. We’ll figure it out in practice and, you know, work the out the kinks. When you get out there you just want to do so well you forget how much preparation you had, so I got to learn on the fly.

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About: Jonathan Santiago

Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.