Team USA dominates exhibition, but loses Blake Griffin
Las Vegas •Â Center? Who needs a center?
Forward Kevin Durant and guard Andre Igoudala combined to score 42 points, and the U.S. men's basketball team began its march to the London Olympics with a 113-59 exhibition victory over the Dominican Republic on Thursday night in which they seemed at times determined to prove they don't need a major presence inside.
Just hours after learning that power forward Blake Griffin has become the latest in a long line of injury casualties, the Americans relied on their superior speed, athleticism and versatility against the overmatched Dominicans and shot 33 three-pointers.
That was almost half of their 74 total shots, and the percentage was even greater before the game really opened up midway through the third quarter and the Americans commenced a procession of run-outs and easy baskets.
Fans can probably expect the strategy to continue, all the way to London.
"I think so," Durant said. "We have so many great penetrators, and they're going to force us to shoot, and we have some great shooters. â¦ Hopefully, we can keep knocking them down."
It might be necessary.
Griffin tore the meniscus in his knee, according to media reports, and will miss the Olympics. USA Basketball officials recalled New Orleans Hornets rookie Anthony Davis after leaving him off the 12-man roster last week, and the No. 1 draft pick made quite an impression.
Despite not knowing the team's plays, he played the entire fourth quarter, scoring nine points and knocking down a late three-pointer that allowed him to tease Dominican coach John Calipari - his former college coach that Calipari should have let him shoot more three-pointers at Kentucky.
Nevertheless, coach Mike Krzyzewski said Davis won't be a huge factor in determining whether the Americans win gold, since he'll likely be a reserve near the end of the bench.
But he could help out inside, where Dominican center Al Horford of the Atlanta Hawks said the Americans might need some help. Tyson Chandler is the only true center on the U.S. roster.
"They'll be fine," Horford said. "The way they're shooting the ball is just too much. â¦ But it's just the rebounding where they might have a hard time against a team like Spain, such a big team. I think they have to do a better job with that."
Everything else, though?
Durant made his first seven shots, finishing 9 for 11 for 24 points and 10 rebounds in barely 22 minutes, while Igoudala was a relentless presence on both ends of the floor and finished with 18 points and countless defensive plays.
The two combined to make 10 of 12 3-pointers, and everybody on the roster played though Chris Paul played less than nine minutes as a precaution because of his injured thumb.
Carmelo Anthony scored 13 points for the Americans, while Kevin Love added 11 off the bench. LeBron James had seven points, and Kobe Bryant had four. The Americans held the Dominicans to 31.7 percent shooting, and forced 27 turnovers.
"I was pleased with the unselfishness of our team," Krzyzewski said. "The defensive intensity, the fact that we really shared the ball. We got a lot of minutes for everybody tonight."
Chairman Jerry Colangelo of USA Basketball said the federation still awaiting official word about Griffin, and that it cannot replace him on the Olympic roster unless and until he officially withdraws. Davis remains an alternate, but will stay with the team as it continues its pre-Olympic exhibition tour in Washington this weekend.
"It's good to move on," Colangelo said, "hopefully without any other news."
Storylines USA 113, Dominican Republic 59
R Team USA shoots 33 3-pointers in its exhibition game rout.
• Kevin Durant had 24 points, and Andre Iguodala added 18.