Rose and Team USA take down Greece in last game before worlds
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ATHENS, Greece — The United States breezed to one last exhibition victory before the start of the world basketball championships, not that coach Mike Krzyzewski seemed to care.
He’s just happy that his group brimming with youthful exuberance is ready to play.
“The score doesn’t really matter, it was just an exhibition game,” Krzyzewski said after an 87-59 blowout of defending silver medalist Greece on Wednesday. “I’m happy we had the chance to play a great team, in a great atmosphere.”
Eric Gordon scored 18 points to pace the Americans, who led from start to finish against a Greece team playing for the first time since a brawl near the end of an exhibition game against Serbia turned the focus of the upcoming world championships away from the court.
The incident happened during the Acropolis tournament last week, and officials from the international basketball federation FIBA are still reviewing details. Any sanctions are expected to be announced before the worlds begin Saturday in Turkey.
The U.S. team, which is missing many of the stars that helped win Olympic gold two years ago, used superior quickness to disrupt Greece’s ball movement and clog passing lanes. Greece wound up turning the ball over 24 times and was outrebounded 53-25, including 30-7 in the second half, when the game was largely decided.
The U.S. led 22-14 after the first quarter and still hung onto a 42-32 halftime lead, before sealing the victory with a 28-12 run spanning the third quarter.
The crowd, which was never to boisterous to begin with, was mostly silenced, and even the Greek basketball online sites blogged less about the game and more about Khloe Kardashian, who is married to Lamar Odom and attended the game.
Greece figured to have a major size advantage, especially considering the U.S. team doesn’t have a true center on its roster, but even that was negated when 6-foot-11 Yannis Bouroussis and 6-10 Sofoklis Schortsanitis sat out the game with injuries. Schortsanitis hurt his foot during warm-ups and was sent for an MRI exam.
The smaller Americans took advantage, even with Tyson Chandler in foul trouble. Kevin Love played well in the second half and finished with eight points and a team-high 13 rebounds.
In addition to Gordon, Love and Odom, the final 12-man roster for the U.S. includes: Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Rudy Gay, Chauncey Billups, Danny Granger, Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala. Celtics guard Rajon Rondo pre-empted Krzyzewski’s decision about the final roster cut Tuesday by taking himself out of contention citing family reasons.
Krzyzewski denied there was any friction with Rondo.
“We respect his decision and we appreciate his total commitment to the team. Rajon is a classy person,” Krzyzewski said. “He is still in the pool of players we will consider for the (2012) London Olympics.”
The world championships run through Sept. 12, and the U.S. has been placed in Group B along Brazil, Croatia, Iran, Slovenia and Tunisia as it pursues its first title since 1994.
Greece is joined by Group C by China, the Ivory Coast, Puerto Rico, Russia and Turkey.
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