BIG SECOND HALF LEADS USA PAST TUNISIA
Eric Patten Follow @ericpatten
A second consecutive slow start was hardly a detour for Team USA on their way to a 110-63 victory over Tunisia in Tuesday’s Group A matchup at the Summer Games in London.
Although their 47-point win looks like the blowout that was widely expected, the United States trailed for a stretch in the first quarter and led by just five late in the opening half.
“It took us a little bit to get warmed up,” Lebron James said. “In the second half we kind of picked it up a little. Our second team did a great job and then we tried to come in and finish it.”
Head coach Mike Krzyzewski substituted five bench players at once midway through the first quarter after Tunisia opened up a 15-12 lead.
"We’ve done that before,” Krzyzewski said when asked about the mass substitution. “My goal tonight was to try to get kind of an equal number of minutes for everybody in the game and to try some different combinations so there was really nothing meant by subbing five at a time except to get five new guys in and get a certain amount of minutes for each of them.”
Clippers star Chris Paul, who committed four fouls, continued his role as a distributor, tallying a game-high seven assists. In the second quarter he dribbled twice between his legs before delivering a left-handed shovel pass to James, who tipped it to Tyson Chandler for a dunk.
“We’re at our best when we [have fun] and share the ball,” said Paul, who added two points and one rebound. “I think our first game we had something like 29 assists on 37 field goals. Tonight we looked at it in the first half and it wasn’t the same, so we just tried to share the ball a little bit.”
The United States had 10 assists in the first half, owning a 46-33 lead.
“They played a little zone,” said Deron Williams, who is the primary backup to Paul. “We were bailing them out a little with a lot of deep shots, a lot of quick shots.”
Tunisia took a 3-2 lead after point guard Salah Mejri canned the first of Tunisia’s nine 3-pointers. The teams traded baskets in the early going before Paul tied it at eight, dribbling right and knocking down a pull-up in the center of the lane on a hard jump stop for his only hoop of the evening.
Five minutes later, Kevin Love converted a wide-open layup to give the United States a 16-15 lead. They would not trail again.
“We knew that they [Tunisia] were going to come out and play hard,” Durant said. “We missed some shots early on. We gave up some easy baskets, but we came back and started fighting a little harder and moved the ball and got the win.”
The United States outscored Tunisia, 39-14, in the third quarter to put the game away.
Tunisia, the 2011 FIBA Africa champions, is the lone team in the tournament without a current NBA player and also the only team in Group A without a win. The United States (2-0) is a game ahead of Argentina, France, Nigeria, and Lithuania. The top four teams from the group advance to next week’s medal round.
TURIAF AND FRANCE SCORES FIRST UPSET OF TOURNAMENT
Clippers forward Ronny Turiaf spent a majority of the second half in foul trouble, but France pulled the first upset of the tournament, defeating Argentina, 71-64, in the game immediately preceding the USA-Tunisia matchup at London’s Basketball Arena.
France, Argentina, Nigeria, and Lithuania are tied at 1-1 behind Team USA in Group A.
Turiaf fouled out and finished with two points and three rebounds in 19 minutes. He picked up his second and third fouls on the same Argentina possession less than two minutes into the second half. He was replaced by Kevin Seraphin and did not return until the 5:53 mark of fourth quarter.
With a six-point lead and 1:51 to go, Turiaf grabbed his third rebound off a miss by Andres Nocioni. As he came to the floor, Turiaf was stripped by Luis Scola and subsequently fouled out of the game on a reach in. Eight seconds later, Turiaf’s frontcourt mate Boris Diaw was whistled for his fifth and final foul, but Argentina failed to take advantage.
Two possessions later, Seraphin tipped a pass by Manu Ginobili to Tony Parker, who found Seraphin on the other end for an alley-oop layup to make it 69-62.
Spurs teammates Parker and Ginobili led their respective nations in scoring. Parker had 17 points on 4-of-17 shooting, while Ginobili went 9-for-20 for a game-high 26.