by Devon Jeffreys, August 01, 2012
Just minutes into Tuesday night's Olympic pool play game against Tunisia, Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski made an unexpected move to jump start his team.
With Team USA trailing 13-12 to a Tunisian team they were expected to handle with ease, Krzyzewski took out all five of his starters. They were replaced by Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Andre Iguodala and Kevin Love. The move paid off as the second unit starred in a 110-63 blowout.
D-Will finished the game with nine points, four assists and a steal. He admitted afterward that he and fellow members of that second unit had a unique perspective watching the start of the game from the bench and were able to quickly implement changes to alter the pace of the game.
"They played a little zone," Deron said," and we were bailing them out a little with a lot of deep shots, a lot of quick shots."
The quintet entered with 2:39 remaining in the first quarter and Tunisia's Mourad El Mabrouk at the free throw line. After El Mabrouk's free throws gave Tunisia a three-point lead, D-Will answered nine seconds later with a teardrop in the lane to cut the USA deficit to one. From there, Team USA's pressure defense took over control of the game, forcing Tunisia into four consecutive turnovers, including two shot clock violations. The result was a 9-0 run by Team USA to close the quarter with a 21-15 lead.
"When you're watching the game you start to pick up on some things," No. 8 said. "Our game plan was to switch and deny and we weren't switch and denying. We wanted to get out onto transition and run. We pretty much did those things."
It was more of the same as the second quarter got underway. Within the first 10 seconds, Deron stole the ball from Salah Mejri and took it back up the court. On the other end, he found Carmelo Anthony for a transition three to put Team USA up by nine. On the next Tunisian possession, D-Will stuffed the shot of Makrem Ben Romdhane, creating another fastbreak opportunity, which Westbrook finished with a mid-range jumper.
"We tried to pick it up, change the tempo of the game and then also push the ball on the offensive end," D-Will said. "Russ was able to get out, get some layups and get us going that way. That kind of changed the momentum of the game."
By the time Team USA made its next substitution — LeBron James and Kevin Durant for Love and Iguodala — the reserve five had built an 11-point lead and had created six turnovers in just over four minutes. Team USA's small lineup didn't fare as well and when Deron came out with 6:50 left in the half, the lead was a tenuous six points. By halftime the starting unit had pushed it back to a comfortable, but far less than expected 13 points.
Still dissatisfied with the effort of his starters, Krzyzewski started the second half with the same five-man group that ignited his team in the first. Within 20 seconds they created a turnover and four seconds later Westbrook had a fastbreak opportunity that he converted into a layup plus one with a foul. After a Tunisia miss, D-Will was next to the line, where he sank both shots to push the lead to 18. The points were part of a 9-0 run in the first 1:40 of the second half that pushed Team USA out to a 22-point lead.
"That was a great lift. That's the best thing about this team, there's no drop off," said Kevin Durant. "We've got All-Stars off the bench. Those guys did a great job for us."
Out of a Tunisia timeout, Team USA's second unit kept the pressure on, forcing bad shots or turnovers and playing at an unmatchable level in transition. In the first six minutes of the second half, the Americans outscored Tunisia 25-3 to take an insurmountable 35-point lead.
Deron logged two more assists during the run. The first was a dish to Carmelo for a trey that made it 63-36 and gave Melo three consecutive buckets totaling eight points. Moments later, No. 8 found Love for a layup to push Team USA's point total to 65. After a steal led to a Westbrook fastbreak dunk, Deron followed with a deep two-point jumper to make it 69-36.
He checked out shortly thereafter, having done his part to establish a large lead for Team USA. The five-man unit of D-Will, Westbrook, Melo, Iguodala and Love finished +32 points for the game, outscoring Tunisia 37-5 in the process.
D-Will came back for a few more minutes in the fourth and took the opportunity to sink his first trey of the tournament off a feed from Westbrook. He also added one final assist, a kick out to Love for a trey. D-Will finished the game +29 individually and said afterward that it was ball movement which made the difference for Team USA as they outscored Tunisia 64-30 in the second half.
"We had 10 assists at half, which is not our game," he said. "We have to move the ball a little bit better. We did that, in the end we had 27 assists. We had 17 in the second half, which is around the number we want to be."
For a few brief moments during Team USA's 25-3 third quarter run, Deron was forced in to a precarious situation.
As he shadowed Tunisia's Marouan Kechrid, Deron got tangled up in a pick by Mohamed Hdidane and lost his left shoe. Undeterred, D-Will hung with Kechrid until another pick left him on an island with the larger Hdidane.
As Hdidane drove to the basket, Deron took the foul rather than give up an easy bucket. While Hdidane went 1-of-2 at the line, Deron retrieved his shoe and tied it up tight.
Following the game, Deron took to Twitter to poke some fun at himself.
Has anyone seen my shoe? I lost it in the 3rd quarter.... That was the best D y'all ever seen with 1 shoe! While y'all trippin...
THE KID IS ALRIGHT
Among the standouts in Team USA's second half success against Tunisia was Anthony Davis.
Davis didn't play a minute in the first half, but logged 14 of the 20 in the second half and finished with 12 points on 5-of-5 from the field and 2-of-2 at the line. He also grabbed three rebounds and tallied a block and a steal on the defensive end.
Though he's been playing with Davis for less than a month, Deron told ESPN's Marc Stein that the 19-year-old is primed to be one of the league's best.
"You can tell," Deron said. "And he doesn't even really know how to play the game yet. Once he figures out that, he definitely can be a scary player."
Team USA has its third game of pool play on Thursday night as they take on Nigeria at the Basketball Arena in Olympic Park.
Nigeria defeated Tunisia in its first game of the tournament but fell to Lithuania by 19 on Tuesday. The team features Hornets forward Al-Farouq Aminu and former NBA player Ike Diogu.
Thursday's tip-off is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. EDT and the game can once again be seen on NBC Sports Network.
- USA Men Capitalize On Depth To Take Down Tunisia, 110-63 (USA Basketball, July 31, 2012)
- Additional Quotes >> USA 110, Tunisia 63 (USA Basketball, July 31, 2012)
- Box Score: USA 110, Tunisia 63 (USA Basketball, July 31, 2012)
- Team USA blows out Tunisia (The Associated Press, July 31, 2012)
- 'The Kid' keeps Team USA soaring (ESPN.com, July 31, 2012)
- U.S. Crushes Tunisia 110-63 On Their Way To A Much-Needed And Planned Day Off (NBA.com, July 31, 2012)