Now in the heart of its preparations for the 2016 Rio Summer Games, the United States men’s basketball team has looked dominant but at times sloppy and perhaps overconfident in their three exhibition victories. Supporters need look no further than Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan’s 360-degree dunk attempt in the closing minutes of Tuesday’s 107-57 blowout win over China.
Head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who acknowledged his squad “had a little too much fun out there” in the second straight triumph over an overmatched China in three days, and it’s likely the Duke coach has already reined his superstar-laden squad in ahead of Friday’s match up with No. 22 ranked Venezuela at United Center in Chicago.
Claiming last year’s FIBA Americas Championship by overcoming traditional powerhouse Argentina in the final, No. 22 ranked Venezuela also dispatched a very talented Canada in the semifinals and could give Team USA some trouble as it prepares for its first Olympics since 1992 in Barcelona.
Led by head coach Nestor Garcia and Brooklyn Nets guard Greivis Vasquez and Maccabi Haifa’s Gregory Vargas, Venezuela is also coming off a rousing run in the South American Championships earlier this month, securing the title by beating No. 9 ranked Brazil twice, including the title game.
Venezuela’s guards have shown they have the shooting range to make Team USA pay for its turnovers. The point guard Vargas led the team with 13.2 points and 4.0 assists during the tournament, knocking down 45.5 percent of his three-point attempts. Swingman Jose Vargas and point guard David Cubillan also nailed better than 40 percent of their threes.
Team USA has committed 40 total turnovers in its first three exhibitions, dropping China twice and Argentina once, and has largely relied on its superior talent and speed on the wings.
But even with big man DeMarcus Cousins notching a double-double of 21 points and 11 rebounds and Carmelo Anthony netting 20 points against the Chinese, the U.S. has yet to find its touch from beyond the arc. Kevin Durant’s knocked down 10 of his 19 three-point attempts and Anthony’s gone 10-for-22, but altogether Team USA is connecting on slightly better than 36 percent of its threes.
That could change as Krzyzewski continues to feature stars from each city on their exhibition tour, with Chicago Bulls All-Star Jimmy Butler likely to garner far more action than the 14.3 minutes he’s averaged in the first three games. Butler’s put up eight total points and said he’s ready to thrill his home crowd.
“Going home to Chicago. Going to show these guys around my city,” Butler told reporters. “I guess dinner’s on me.”
Start Time: Friday, 9 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBA TV
Live Stream: Team USA Facebook