Welcome to Madrid, Spain's La Caja Mágica, the Magic Box, a tennis arena converted to a basketball arena for these exhibition games.
Yesterday's exhibition game started out sloppy and ugly for USA. Lithuania played a physical style of basketball reminiscent of Jerry Sloan and the Utah Jazz. They knocked people over, clogged the paint, and caused nightmares for anyone trying to score inside. USA started out shooting 3/21 with 6 turnovers, but some Lithuania sloppiness kept them in the game by half time.
USA turned the tables late in the 3rd qtr, as their guards adjusted to the physical style of play. They turned up their physical defense around the perimeter and harrassed Lithuania's guards into several turnovers and steals into fast break points. The stronger guard defense slowed down Lithuania's execution of their pick and roll plays, allowing USA to better rotate to the rolling Lithuania player and guard them or steal the pass. USA took over the game for good after a 17-0 run spanning the 3rd and 4th qtrs.
Stephen Curry did not play until late in the 4th qtr when it was garbage time. He came in and hit a 3 and midrange 2, but there wasn't much to take out of his garbage time stint. I don't know if Curry didn't play real minutes because coach K didn't want to push him back so quickly on the floor, or if he felt Curry wouldn't be able to survive and defend the more physical Lithuania team.
Today, Team USA gets a real test as they face the defending world champion Spain, who has better shooters, better bigs, better defenders, better athletes than Lithuania, along with home court advantage. Those jeers from the crowd we heard last night when the refs called traveling on USA should be 10 times louder tonight. Familiar names on Spain: Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, Jose Calderon, Rudy Fernandez, and Juan Carlos Navarro.
Exhibition in Spain lineup:
Aug 22 - Sunday - 12:00pm PDT (live!) - Team USA vs. Spain - NBATV, espn3.com
Aug 22 - Sunday - 7:00pm PDT (replay) - Team USA vs. Spain - ESPN2
After Spain, Team USA travels to Greece for some more training and 1 exhibition game on Wed Aug 25 against Greece. It will be on ESPN2 and espn3.com 9am PDT. This will be their last exhibition game before the actual tournament.