With a sellout crowd of 19,763 in attendance, the United States World Championship Team brought a satisfying conclusion to the four-day World Basketball Festival by trouncing the national team from France, 86-55, in the first game of an international doubleheader at Madison Square Garden.
After a slow start that saw them deadlocked with France after the first quarter, Team USA began gradually pulling away in the second quarter to close the first half with a nine-point lead.
The United States squad broke the game open with an early third-quarter run spearheaded by 33-year-old point guard Chauncey Billups, the oldest player on the team, who scored nine points in the stanza to help push Team USA’s advantage to 18 entering the fourth quarter.
The final ten minutes of the contest were completely academic as evidenced by France’s glaring lack of defensive intensity and failure to put up any kind of resistance to the hungry United States contingent. Team USA would outscore France 22-9 in the quarter to win their first official exhibition game by 31 points.
Although the United States squad registered a convincing victory over France, by any standard, the team was extremely measured in how much praise they heaped upon themselves individually and collectively.
“I give us a B-minus; it was alright”, Billups responded when asked to grade the team’s performance. “Our offense is a little behind the defense at this point.”
Rudy Gay, who led Team USA with 19 points off the bench, was even more critical of the team’s showing as well as his individual performance.
“I say a C-plus”, Gay said when posed a similar question about his efforts in addition to that of the team. “I think we could do so much more, we could be so much better”, Gay added. “We had lapses out there, and that’s what these games are for. That’s exactly what these games are for; to get that out of the way and we can learn from it. That’s the best thing we could get from this game, that’s why it’s an exhibition. Learn what we did wrong, watch that on tape and get better at it.”
In the second game of the afternoon’s doubleheader, Carlos Arroyo scored 16 points to lead Puerto Rico past China, 92-76, to officially bring closure to the inaugural World Basketball Festival.
Next on the docket for the 13 finalists for the 2010 USA World Championship Team is a trip to Madrid, Spain, where they will practice from August 17-20.
Subsequently, Team USA will play three world basketball powers in exhibition games, or “friendlies,” in preparation for the 2010 FIBA World Championship. In advance of the tournament, the United States squad will meet Lithuania on August 21 and Spain on August 22 in Madrid, and play Greece in Athens on August 25.
All of these “friendlies” are part of the new Global Community Cup, which will include all USA Basketball exhibition games played outside of formal international competitions. Along with the games, the Global Community Cup features a social responsibility element that will highlight USA Basketball’s commitment to giving back to communities in the United States and abroad.