Playing in his home arena, DeAndre Jordan scored 12 points and had five boards against China. (Photo: Andrew D. Bernstein).
LOS ANGELES (July 24, 2016) -- Shooting comes and goes. What encouraged USA Men's National Team head coach Mike Krzyzewski more than anything Sundaynight at STAPLES Center is his team's defense doesn't appear to ebb and flow with those offensive peaks and valleys.
Despite posting only four points more than halfway through the first quarter, the USA never trailed against China, relying on defense to buy time until USA's gifted outside shooters started seeing their shots fall in an eventual 106-57 rout.
"This group has been a fabulous group to coach," Krzyzewski said. "None of the teams we've coached have worked harder defensively than this team. I'm not saying we didn't play hard, but this team is really playing hard. It's fun to watch."
Krzyzewski said he wants his players to be able to play with everyone, so he switched up the starting lineup Sunday from the USA's first exhibition game. DeAndre Jordan set the tone defensively, earning a start in front of his home fans and blocking China's first shot of the game, then finishing an alley-oop from Kyle Lowry on the other end.
Even as the offense stalled early, the U.S. never trailed, relying on their defense to limit China to just 13 points in the first quarter and nine in the third.
"I think defensively, we really showed what we're capable of," said Paul George. "We're so talented. We've got so much depth. We can throw anybody in the lineup and we're going to carry out the job. It's a luxury that we can play around and have these exhibition games to figure out what works and what doesn't.
The minute Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson entered the game late in the first quarter, the offensive misfortunes turned around. The USA scored 19 points in the final four minutes of the first quarter, with Thompson and Durant combining for 12 points in fewer than five minutes of action in the quarter.
"Sometimes when you're not scoring, you don't play defense," Krzyzewski said. "That's the cool thing today, is that we didn't score right away, but we played really good defense...Then KD and Klay come in and boom, boom, boom, it was there."
With the ball movement USA showed, posting assists on seven of their first eight made baskets in the first quarter, a close matchup suddenly became a comfortable double-digit lead.
China had no answer inside for Jordan and DeMarcus Cousins, who combined for 24 points and 12 rebounds. Once Durant and Thompson got going, hitting four 3-pointers apiece on the night, China had little chance. The USA continued to find the open man and make the extra pass, finishing with 20 more assists than China while forcing 26 turnovers.
"We really played hard and we shared the ball well," Krzyzewski said. "To have 29 assists on 41 buckets... we should have won, but the way we won was excellent."