Derrick Rose’s first game back at the United Center since November of 2013 was a relative success, as Team USA defeated Brazil, 95-78, Saturday night in the national team’s first exhibition game in preparation for the upcoming FIBA World Cup in Madrid, Spain.
Brazil, with its three NBA players and solid, if unheralded overseas professionals of some renown, got out to a competitive start and with Team USA experiencing some ball-security issues and defensive lapses, it was a close-knit affair at the outset of the contest. But the hosts began to find a rhythm and had some early spectacular moments to seize a narrow advantage.
Rose, however, wasn’t a major factor in his first stretch of play, which lasted more than seven minutes and didn’t see him score a point in the opening period. But the squad’s other Chicago native, New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis, did excel in the early going, thrilling his hometown crowd with his above-the-rim exploits, helping the Americans’ lead gradually increase and after a quarter of play, settling into a 29-15 advantage.
Contrary to the pass-first approach he displayed in his first stint of the game, Rose, who started the second quarter, had a much more aggressive mentality when he returned to the floor, though it yielded mixed results. A strong drive to the basket resulted in a shooting foul and one of two free throws to get him on the board, followed by a miss of a wide-open breakaway dunk, which shocked the partisan audience.
Meanwhile, Brazil mounted a comeback, closing the gap to as little as a four-point spread before the intermission. Rose, who suffered a slight facial cut and briefly went to the locker room for treatment before returning to the bench, made one last first-half appearance with 4.6 seconds remaining in the frame, and raced from end to end, hitting a buzzer-beating floater off the glass to send Team USA into halftime with a 45-37 lead.
After the break, the home team maintained its winning margin, though it wasn’t made easy, as the Brazilians showed no signs of being intimidated. Rose, who played the entire third quarter, remained quiet, until a crossover dribble and gorgeous layup ignited the crowd. Heading into the final stanza, the U.S. remained ahead, 68-63.
Davis, the other hometown hero, put forth an inspirational effort in the fourth quarter, doing everything from diving over the courtside seats for loose balls to dominating on both ends with blocked shots, finishing alley-oop dunks and knocking down jumpers. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft and Western Conference All-Star last season propelled Team USA to a comfortable double-digit edge.
Following a spontaneous “We Want Rose,” chant from the crowd, the loyalists got their wish granted, as the Bulls point guard checked back into the game with 5:20 remaining. The national team cruised to victory, with only Utah Jazz small forward Gordon Hayward, Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond and injured Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins seeing no action at all in the contest, which will be followed by exhibition games against Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic next week in New York.