Damian Lillard, Team USA Defeat Spain in Final Exhibition Ahead of Tokyo Olympics
AP Photo/John Locher
Team USA men’s basketball needed a win, and it got just that with a 83-76 comeback victory over Spain in Sunday’s exhibition contest at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard, Keldon Johnson and Zach LaVine led the way for the Americans in their final tune-up prior to the trip to Tokyo for the Olympics. An impressive showing from Ricky Rubio wasn’t enough for the Spaniards.
This win was much-needed considering how up-and-down the transition into the Olympics has been for Team USA. It no longer has Bradley Beal or Kevin Love on the roster, and they were replaced by JaVale McGee and Johnson.
While McGee and Johnson are both solid players, they also don’t exactly inspire visions of Dream Teams past with legends such as Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant taking the court.
What’s more, Jerami Grant entered health and safety protocols and the team lost exhibition contests to Nigeria and Australia. The Americans have not been nearly as dominant as many expected considering they are three-time defending Olympic champions, and they are still playing without Devin Booker, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton because of the NBA Finals.
Spain is also traditionally one of the toughest international opponents, and its roster includes plenty of familiar names for NBA fans, including Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol, Rudy Fernandez, Willy Hernangomez and Rubio.
Spain proved its mettle in the early going and took a 38-36 lead into halftime.
Team USA had no answer for Rubio early, as the point guard torched the American backcourt, got into the lane, drew contact and even hit a three while spearheading his team’s attack.
It was the Durant and Lillard show on the other end, as they each had 11 points at intermission while no other American had more than four.
And then the Americans turned in arguably their best quarter in the entire run up to the Olympics to take a 57-50 lead into the fourth. Johnson was dominant and poured in 10 points in the third quarter alone by attacking the basket and unleashing his smooth shot.
He was the third scorer the team was looking for throughout the first half, but the defense was also much more active with Draymond Green and Jayson Tatum deflecting passes and cutting off driving lanes.
There wasn’t much drama in the fourth quarter, but LaVine took over for stretches to extend the lead to double digits.
The Chicago Bulls guard hit from the outside and threw down two of his patented dunks to ensure there would be no comeback for Spain.
Next up for Team USA is its first Olympic game against France in Group A competition next Sunday.
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