Team USA cruises to win over Slovenia in exhibition finale

Team USA cruises to win over Slovenia in exhibition finale
August 26, 2014, 3:15 pm
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Bulls point guard Derrick Rose scored three points in more than 20 minutes of playing time during Team USA’s 101-71 win Tuesday over Slovenia in Gran Canaria, Spain, the final exhibition game before the FIBA World Cup pool play begins Saturday against Finland.

Although Rose didn’t start the contest, he entered the game at the 5:27 mark of the first quarter and like last week’s exhibition win over Puerto Rico in New York, the former league MVP was aggressive as soon as he hit the floor. The Chicago native twice drew fouls within a minute of being on the court, missing a pair of free throws on his first trip to the line before knocking down a pair of foul shots the next time he was at the charity stripe and simply missing a driving layup with under a minute left in the frame.

Rose’s free-throw shooting was emblematic of Team USA’s early struggles from the line, as the Americans were successful in drawing fouls, but not converting opportunities. With Slovenia’s backcourt, featuring Phoenix Suns point guard Goran Dragic, proving capable of handling their ball pressure on defense — Rose, not known as an elite defender, is perhaps the best defensive guard on the squad — it was a fairly close-knit affair, with Team USA holding a 24-18 advantage at the conclusion of the opening period.

[MORE: Bulls one of many teams represented at FIBA World Cup]

Rose got a breather at the outset of the second quarter, which saw Team USA’s fortunes change for the better, opening up a comfortable double-digit lead and dominating on both ends of the floor, complete with Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, a USA Basketball assistant coach, barking at the officials. With 4:55 remaining before halftime, Rose returned to the game and resumed his role as a magnet for drawing fouls, getting to the line and splitting a pair of free-throw attempts, then missing a reverse layup.

Often playing in tandem with Team USA starting point guard Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Bulls floor general played both on and off the ball, even sharing ballhandling responsibilities with the squad’s go-to scorer, Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden, who turned 25 years old Tuesday. Meanwhile, Slovenia didn’t let the game get out of hand, but Team USA took a 46-35 lead into the intermission.

Team USA got off to a 23-4 run after the break, prior to Rose checking in at the 4:50 mark of the third quarter. Rose, who was underwhelming in the first half, continued to be quiet for the remainder of the period, but it didn’t adversely affect Team USA, which led, 81-54, heading into the final stanza.

Rose made a final appearance with 5:31 remaining in the contest, missing a floater in the lane his first time down court offensively, then later dishing out an assist to Golden State Warriors sharpshooter Klay Thompson for a corner three down the stretch, as Team USA easily cruised to the blowout victory.