Team USA only made 6 of their first 19 shots in the first 10 minutes against Ukraine and after the first quarter they were down by 5. USA took a 12 point lead at the half and 16 after a 3rd quarter where James Harden scored 10 of his 17 points.
“They played really hard, really physical, and they got after us from the beginning of the game,” Harden said. “It forced us to play really well. No matter what the score says, they never gave up, and it showed here tonight.”
AD and Faried continued to play with 12 & 6 and 10 & 8 and Stephen Curry hit 3 of 4 from downtown to go with his 14 points.
“It was a rough start for us tonight; we started off a little slow,” said Curry. “Defensively, I think we were locked in, it’s just offensively we weren’t in synch and it took us a minute to get going, so we’ve got to just do that going forward. But our effort and intensity were there and just happy to finish out pool play 5-0. That was the mission coming in, take each game one at a time; try to get better every game and I think we accomplished that. Still (we) can play a little bit better. I’m looking forward to getting to Barcelona and start the next part of the journey – the medal round.”
The USA team did get a real scare in the final minutes of the game when Kyrie Irving went down hard but he tweeted after the game saying “I’m all good everybody, just a tough fall. #ontobarcelona”
Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans)
I’m just trying to contribute more. I know they expect a lot out of me, especially since I was on that 2012 team, so I’m just trying to contribute, make sure that we get each win and play hard for these last four games. Now it’s win or go home. We’ve got to come out very prepared and make sure we play hard.
When you were in college, a lot of people looked at you and thought maybe this was the next Marcus Camby, primarily a defender, but you’ve worked a lot on your offensive game. Has that been a focus of yours?
No. I’m just trying to work on my game. That’s you all who thought that. That’s the media. I don’t get involved in the media. You all think what you want to think. I just go out there and work hard.
Does leadership come natural to you or is that something you’re still adjusting to?
I still try to lead. I’ve got Steph (Curry) and James (Harden) trying to help, and the coaches as well. So, I’m trying to do the best I can to lead this team and help us win gold.
How about a little shout out for the crowd? We get very loud and excited to see you guys perform.
It’s a great audience for each and every one of our games. We like playing in environments where there’s a lot of people, and just give the fans a show.
Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets)
On being referred to as a star of the team:
I’m not the star. I’m just playing basketball and having fun. I don’t think we have a star on this team. Everybody just contributes on certain nights and gives it their all. Tonight, James Harden came out and did his thing, so you can’t call me the star. We have people that contribute every night either by scoring the ball or coming down with assists.
On the slow start:
I think we take every game seriously. I don’t see us having starts like we did today. I think we got off to a cold start because we came in the locker room and thought we would have a chance to warm up and get shots before the game but it was really just ‘hey you need to get dressed and tape up now because the game is going to start in 30 minutes. It was surprising. It surprised us.”
Is the team’s style to give you opportunities inside?
It’s a little bit of everything. We have our perimeter guys who can shoot the lights out of the ball. We have our big guys that can bang, dunk, do things like that and we’re going to rebound to kick it out for 3s or dump it in or look for the guard. We are playing more inside out but we want to get the ball inside in order to draw the defense in and shoot the 3s.
On the managing of egos on this team:
I think coach has it under control. Coach told us to come in with our egos because that is what got us here, but come in ready to participate and play on a team…This is nobody’s team, it’s everyone all coming together for one common goal and that’s to win gold for the USA.
Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers)
On the team’s performance:
We had a little bit of a lull in the first quarter. We don’t want to create excuses for ourselves but three games in three days is not something we are used to. We came out in the second quarter and executed then came out at half time and did things the right way. We executed and picked up our defense in the second half and that led to this win.
On how the team executed better:
We started making the right decisions, being decisive about what we wanted to do on both ends of the floor and communicating. We came in at halftime and made some adjustments. I think we executed on both ends of the floor in the second half.
On Ukraine’s performance:
It was the last game and they were fighting for position, we were as well. It’s just part of the game and they came out and hit us in the mouth in the first quarter. A little bit in the second quarter too and then we buckled down on defense, that’s where it starts for us and we were able to come up with the win.
Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls)
I wouldn’t say it’s pressure. We’ve played well these games we were here, even though we still have goals as a team. We’re just trying to take it one game at a time. Even if we don’t have games, we’re just trying to get better as a team, looking over film, just trying to read the game plans and learn the opponents. It’s been helping us so far. We’ve really been getting after guys, but we’ve been starting out sluggish in some games, but we can always fix that with hustle.
Are the sluggish starts about trying to easy your way into games and not make mistakes, or does that have to be fixed?
It’s just getting a feel for the game. When the starters go out there, they’re just trying to get the feel. Some teams give us their all in the first half and then you see in the second half they have nothing. We just have to come out aggressive. Take their heart from the beginning and see how far we go. We know that we have an important journey ahead of us. We’re trying not to look too far. I think we have four or five games left. We’re just trying to take it one day at a time and really get better as a team.
As someone who’s been a part of these national teams before, and you understand the format, do you have to make sure to communicate to the other guys how you pace yourself in terms of taking it one game at a time and not looking beyond what’s in front of you?
You can’t look beyond, but as far as pacing, when we’re out there we have to give our all while we’re on the court. There are five, six, seven other guys on the bench that are playing the exact way that you’re playing. My job is to play defense, defend and not turn the ball over. Coming out here it’s kind of easy for my game to get in a rhythm.
A lot was made of Kenneth Faried maybe being a bad fit for this style of play, but that seems to be the wrong assessment so far. Can you comment on his play?
Just his energy. He’s been playing great. He knocked down a jump shot today, something he’s been working on in practice. He gives us extra possessions on the floor. And, he gives us his all. We know he’s trying to do everything he can to help us win. That’s all we can ask for.