If, by some chance, Derrick Rose isn’t a member of USA Basketball’s FIBA World Cup team, it won’t be because of his performance Friday night at Madison Square Garden. The Bulls point guard appeared to be his usual dynamic self in approximately 18 minutes of action, scoring six points and dishing out four assists in a 112-86 victory over Puerto Rico in New York.
Rose didn’t start the game — Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving was in the starting lineup for the second consecutive outing — which featured an 8-0 Puerto Rico run in the early portion of the opening period.
The former league MVP entered the contest at the 4:29 mark of the first quarter and looked to be suffering no ill effects from his four days off since last Saturday’s return to the United Center in an exhibition-game win over Brazil. The Chicago native was immediately aggressive upon checking in, quickly launching an off-target 3-pointer, then drawing a foul and splitting a pair of free-throw attempts, while matched up with Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Jose Juan Barea, whom Rose defended physically.
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Puerto Rico, however, kept the game competitive — and in fact led for much of the frame, not disappointing the ethnically diverse New York City crowd, especially with several members of the national team having ties to the Big Apple — and after a Rose triple with under a minute to go in the first quarter, a follow-up dunk at the buzzer by former NBA draft pick Ricky Sanchez knotted up the score at 24 apiece.
Rose remained in the game, playing alongside Irving at the outset of the second quarter, notching an assist on a trey from Dallas Mavericks forward Chandler Parsons off strong penetration. The point guard later made a mid-air cross-court pass to find Golden State Warriors sharpshooter Klay Thompson for a corner three before air-balling another long-range attempt of his own and coming out of the game with 6:49 before halftime.
The game continued to remain a close-knit affair and heading into the intermission, Team USA, which played a generally inefficient brand of offense and had numerous defensive lapses, clung to a narrow 52-47 advantage, following Thompson’s buzzer-beating three in what appeared to be their toughest exhibition test yet.
But after the break, Team USA created a double-digit margin of separation, finally asserting its will against a smaller, less athletic squad. Rose returned to the game with 3:50 left in the third quarter and not long after, he made a flashy mid-air touch pass to Thompson for a corner triple.
Team USA continued to extend its lead and heading into the final stanza, the hosts led, 84-64, courtesy of a 3-pointer by Sacramento Kings forward Rudy Gay in the waning seconds of the period, off another Rose assist.
Rose scored the first basket of the fourth quarter on a driving layup, aiding Team USA in maintaining its comfortable advantage, then exited the game for the final time with 7:55 left on the clock, the victory easily in hand. The national team’s edge gradually increased as Puerto Rico’s initial energy faded more and more as the game went on, turning the last frame into garbage time.
Tweaks to the roster are scheduled to be made Saturday morning, prior to the remaining 12, 13 or even 14 players flying to the Canary Islands in the afternoon for the squad’s final exhibition game, Tuesday against Slovenia, before beginning FIBA World Cup play Aug. 30th in Spain.