Presidentially approved: Team USA downs Brazil

Presidentially approved: Team USA downs Brazil
July 17, 2012, 5:49 am

Exhibition, shmexhibition. From the ultimate power couple sitting courtside to the full-throated crowd packing the Verizon Center, there was no sense of irrelevancy about the United States mens basketball pre-Olympic tune-up against Brazil at the Verizon Center.
There was also no sense the 80-69 winning result for the Americans is indicative of the best this team has to offer the world on its quest for a gold medal later this summer in London. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle sat and eventually smooched opposite Brazils bench, where Washington Wizards center Nene rested in between battling the likes of scoring star LeBron James. Vice President Joe Biden witnessed the still getting acquainted Team USAs defense in its dominating second-to-none mode. The turnover-generating bunch turned an early 10-point deficit into a permanent hold on the lead by halftime. Tonight we learned from being down early and kept fighting, said hometown hero Kevin Durant. We got steals, we got easy layups, we got to the free throw line. We got to continue playing hard and well be fine.James led all scorers with 30 points, 14 coming in the fourth quarter. Durant scored 11 and Chris Paul had 10. James and Paul each had four of Team USAs 19 steals and helped turn Brazil over 26 times.The victory clinched a doubleheader sweep for the U.S. after the women's national team toppled their Brazilian counterparts 99-67.Also headed to the Olympics, the crisp passing Brazilians jumped out quickly for a 17-7 lead and maintained the advantage for much of the first half. Even after falling behind, they kept the game inside single digits throughout of the second half. Brazil held the overall rebounding edge, had their point guard dole out more assists than their opponents combined and held the U.S. to 25 percent shooting (6 of 24) from 3-point territory.Still, it wasnt enough against a deeper squad with talent oozing from all parts of the roster. We tried doing what we could, said Nene, who finished with eight points and six rebounds. We tried to put a lot of emphasis on defense and neutralize the shot. That worked in the first half, but these guys are great.Starting early in the second quarter, Team USAs hallmark defensive pressure took over. Suddenly even crossing half court proved treacherous for the Brazilians, whose roster included four NBA players.After Nenes dunk with 8:39 left in the quarter put Brazil ahead 29-21, the U.S. did not allow another field goal attempt for over seven minutes. In that span, the U.S forced nine turnovers - 12 for the quarter. They closed the first half on a 16-3 run for a 37-32 lead as James tallied 13 points, two coming on a dunk following a Kobe Bryant steal.We didnt shoot the ball really well from the 3-point throw line, but our defense won us that game, said Oklahoma City guard James Harden. Thats what we have to. Even when we dont knock down shots, defensively we have to lockdown, take our defense to another level.Wizards owner Ted Leonsis was in his own building as were local college basketball dignitaries John Thompson Jr. and George Mason coach Paul Hewitt. The event also included a heavy dose of military representation as active and injured soldiers lined up next to the U.S. players during the pre-game introductions. At one point during a break, the jumbotron panned the arena showing various military personal, which led to chants of U-S-A, U-S-A.As for the blue jacket and jeans wearing President of the United States, he too drew roars from the crowd, but in one instance only after he and the First Lady generated playful boos.During an on-court stoppage in the first half, the view from the Kiss-Cam cameras landed on the Obamas, but they smiled their way into declining participation. Later in the game, the kiss-cam returned and this time the Commander in Chief took control, planting one on Mrs. Obama to the delight of the masses.Hey man, PDA is not for everybody, Bryant cracked after he was asked about the President getting it right the second time. But he makes the important positions so its all good.Bryant, joined in the starting lineupby James, Paul, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler, finished with eight points. Anthony did not score until the fourth quarter and finished with three points on 1 of 7 shooting. Only incoming rookie Anthony Davis did not play for the U.S.side.Cleveland Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds for Brazil. Alex Garcia led Brazil with 14 points and Marcelo Huertas dished out 13 assists, two more than the entire U.S. team.Lindsay Whalen scored 21 points and Diana Taurasi had 16 points to pacefive double figure scorers for the U.S. women's team. Washington Mystics assistant coach Jennifer Gillom serves in the same for the Olympic team.The U.S. mennext plays exhibitions in England and Spain before opening Olympic play on July 29 against France.