by Devon Jeffreys, July 19, 2012
Playing overseas for the first time since his successful stint with Turkish team Besiktas last fall, Deron Williams put on a sharpshooting show in Manchester, England on Thursday night.
Following two exhibition games on their home soil, D-Will and Team USA headed overseas this week for three more games as a precursor to the Olympics in London later this month. The first of those three was in Manchester, England — Deron's first game outside the U.S. since the NBA lockout ended last November, bringing his 23-game stay in Turkey to an end.
D-Will didn't miss a beat, scoring 19 points on 7-of-8 from the field, including 5-of-6 from three to earn Tiffany & Co. Player of the Game honors as Team USA rolled to a 118-78 win over host Great Britain. The victory moved the Americans to 3-0 in exhibition games this summer.
"It was a great game from us. We're just really using this time, these warmup games just to find a rhythm, to find a chemistry," D-Will said. "We've only been together for a short amount of time, so all these practices, these games, these warmup games are going to do a lot to build up chemistry and build character. We're really learning a lot about who we are and finding our roles. It was a good one tonight against a tough Great Britain team."
Unlike the first two exhibitions, when he came off the bench to relieve Chris Paul, Deron's role on Thursday was as a starter for Team USA, the first time he's started in international competition for USA Basketball since joining the Senior National Team in 2007.
He took to the role almost immediately, knocking down his first trey just 90 seconds into the game to put Team USA ahead 5-2. Deron played the first five minutes of the opening quarter, applying supreme ball-pressure on Great Britain's overwhelmed backcourt and producing one of his two steals.
When D-Will exited the game for a breather five minutes into the first, Team USA had built a 13-6 lead and by the end of the first, they held a 33-20 edge. It was in stark contrast to the way they started their previous game — an 80-69 win over Brazil on Monday — when they ended up trailing 27-17 after one.
According to No. 8, that difference could be attributed to Team USA's pressure defense. He said the start of Monday's game against Brazil lingered with he and his teammates as they traveled from Washington over to Manchester for Thursday's game.
"The mood was good because we won, but at the same time we took a look at the film and we acknowledged we made some mistakes in that game," Deron explained. "The thing that stuck with us most was that first quarter when we allowed 27 points, which we can't do if we want to be successful especially against a tough team like that. Getting down 10 points early, then we were fighting up hill."
The change in tempo was evident from the outset as the Americans repeatedly applied pressure to Great Britain forcing several turnovers in the early minutes of the game. Britain turned the ball over 27 times over the course of the game and also had eight shots that swatted away by Team USA.
"We played a lot better defensively," D-Will said. "We played our game probably a little bit more, got out in transition. We forced a lot of turnovers, and that makes us get easy baskets, and we definitely rely on easy baskets."
By the time Deron returned to the game, two minutes into the second quarter, the Team USA lead had ballooned to 17 at 37-20. After missing his only shot of the night just seconds after checking in, D-Will knocked down a mid range jumper to make it 39-22. The Americans led by an 18-point margin — 55-37 — at halftime, but it wasn't until the second half that No. 8 really got going and helped Team USA put a lingering Great Britain team away.
D-Will got things started in the third with a strong drive to the basket for a layup to push the lead back to 18. From there, No. 8 lived on the perimeter, where over a two-minute span in the third he sank four consecutive treys, igniting a 14-2 run for Team USA to go up by 28.
First came a set play that saw D-Will escape a screen and curl out to set up on the right wing, where he took a pass from LeBron James and knocked down a wide-open trey. Following a block by Tyson Chandler, Deron set up for Team USA's next play on the left wing and took a cross-court pass from Kobe Bryant, stepped in and buried a trey with a hand in his face.
Moments later, Kevin Durant rebounded a Great Britain miss and dished off to D-Will who dribbled ahead and pulled up again from the right wing to knock down his third three in less than a minute. That third trey, which pushed Team USA's lead to 25 at 66-41, forced Great Britain to call a timeout.
Out of the break, LeBron James and Britain's Joel Freeland traded baskets, but Deron followed by taking another dish from James off a curl to knock down one more triple. It ended up being his last shot of the night as double teams soon came his way and he turned back into a facilitator. But D-Will does well in that department too, and all five of his assists came in the last 15 minutes of the game. The first went to James, who took a no-look dish straight down the lane for a vicious jam.
No. 8 followed with a pair of dishes to Carmelo Anthony for treys and by the end of the third Team USA had built an 89-55 lead. Deron got two more dimes in the fourth and his second steal as he closed out the 40-point win.
He admitted after the game that he's just now starting to find his own individual rhythm after a nearly two-month layoff from game action and being forced to sit out the first few Team USA practices and scrimmages before he signed his new contract with the Nets.
"I thought I adjusted pretty well. I was a little worried about my conditioning was going to be because I haven't played five-on-five, but I trained really hard coming in so I'd be in the best shape possible," he said. "I feel like I'm there, I'm good. I'm in great conditioning. My shot is now starting to come along. That rhythm and timing is starting to get down."
Friday is a travel day for Team USA as they head from England over to Spain where they'll play their final two warm-up games on Sunday and Tuesday.
The competition will be stiff in Barcelona as the Americans will take on Argentina (Sunday) and Spain (Tuesday), the two teams considered the biggest threat to Team USA's hopes of repeating as Olympic Champions. Though both games are expected to be tough, Deron assured that he and his teammates will be ready.
"We know we can be beaten. If we don't come to play, if we overlook an opponent, we can be beaten," he said. "There are some tough teams out here: Brazil's one of them, Spain's one of them, Argentina's one of them. We're playing all three of those in warm- up games, and we're not going to overlook anybody."
Sunday's game against Argentina tips at 9:30 p.m. in Barcelona (3:30 p.m. EDT) and will air on ESPN 2.
- Deron Williams and Carmelo Anthony both score 19 in Olympic tune up (New York Daily News, July 19, 2012)
- U.S. Men's Basketball Team Routs Britain in Exhibition (New York Times, July 19, 2012)
- Second-Half Explosion Propels USA Men's National Team Past Great Britain, 118-78 (USA Basketball, July 19, 2012)
- Additional Quotes >> USA 118, Great Britain 78 (USA Basketball, July 19, 2012)
- Box Score >> USA 118, Great Britain 78 (USA Basketball, July 19, 2012)
- Team USA handles Great Britain in exhibition to zero surprise (CBS Sports, July 19, 2012)