Team USA Overpowers Great Britain
Record crowd sees DWill lead USA to victory in Manchester.
by Ben Taylor / @benitaylor
“Does England even have a basketball team?”
The random guy at the Manchester bar meant Great Britain, but the point was still the same; most Brits have no idea that basketball is a thing in this country. It says a lot about the pull of the NBA that last night’s pre-Olympic exhibition game between the USA and Great Britain was a sold out, the biggest basketball event ever on this side of the pond.
The record crowd of 16,979 came out to see Kobe, LeBron, and the superstars of the US national team put on a show. And while the 118-78 blowout victory for the visitors was hardly a classic, the general excitement in Manchester Arena and the amount of USA merchandise being bought by fans suggests that basketball, and in particular this US team, are going to be the big story at the Olympics.
In the end, it was a couple of names less well-known to the UK crowd who stole the show; Deron Williams, who picked up Player of the Game honors, and Anthony Davis, who kept the reserved British crowd on their feet with a string of brutal rejections and high flying dunks.
The game started at a high pace, with Great Britain trying to stretch the floor, looking for quick points before the US defense got a chance to settle. It looked like a solid plan for the first 38 seconds.
From that point on, the US showed why they are the number one ranked team in the world and the Brits are not. On the defensive end, the Americans piled the pressure on the home team, forcing bad shots and handling errors. In particular, Chris Paul seemed on a personal mission to remind the British guards of the gulf between the ability of the two sides – CP3 was all over GB vet Nate Reinking the second he touched the rock, sniffing out any opportunity for a steal.
When they had the ball, the range of options available on the stacked US team proved too much for GB to handle. With the USA’s superior handling and passing ability, all it took to get an unchallenged shot was a couple of quick passes—and when KD and Melo are the guys left open, you know you’re in for a long night.
GB didn’t fold over quickly, though. Luol Deng and former Raptor Pops Mensah-Bonsu were playing hard at both ends, but the sheer depth of the US side, whose bench outscored the Brits’, 65-32, meant that the game was over as a contest after two quarters.
The competition in the second half was between the US guys, battling each other to see who could make the highlight reel. LeBron, KD, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Davis, and Kevin Love threw down with ruthless regularity—Love finishing one particularly great reverse alley-oop that even he looked surprised by.
They seemed to be having a good time, making it exactly the kind of exhibition the NBA and the dunk-hungry Manchester crowd wanted. For Coach Krzyzewski, it can hardly have been the pre-Olympic warm up he was hoping for; the US team left departed Manchester for Barcelona this morning, where they’ll face tough back-to-back games with Argentina and Spain.
For the home side, there’s clearly room for improvement, but it is worth noting that the USA was the best team they have ever faced. No, Great Britain isn’t going to win gold, and they might not even make it out of the group round, but if they show that kind of fight come the Olympics, people in the UK will at least be certain that that they have a respectable basketball team.
- Player of the Game: D-Will. 19 points, 5 assists, 2 steals, 7/8 FG, 5/6 from behind the arc. Shout-out to Melo, who also scored 19 points, making an equally insane 80 percent of his shots.
- The biggest cheer of the night was reserved for Kobe. The fans showed Bean some serious love in the pre-game introductions and every second person in the crowd seemed to be rocking his jersey. On the flip side, the British crowd couldn’t seem to make their mind up about LeBron – who got a huge cheer in the intro, but booed every time he went to the line. Maybe it’s a soccer thing.
- Am I the only one who thinks Pops Mensah-Bonsu could still do a job in the NBA?
- My man Joel Freeland, who you can read about in SLAM 161, had an off night, fresh from signing with Portland. He was the first to admit he showed LeBron and Co. too much respect. Don’t expect him to make the same mistake twice.
- With NCAA hoops not being easy to catch over here in the UK, it was my first time seeing Anthony Davis play. I am totally on-board the bandwagon. The kid is a beast. If he does nothing in the NBA but block shots, that’s cool with me.