Team USA men’s basketball passes Canada in first look for Paris Olympics

LAS VEGAS — Team USA’s Olympic men’s basketball roster is a cornucopia of riches. This group, loaded with future Hall of Famers and NBA All-Stars, heads into the 2024 Paris Games as the odds-on favorite to take home a fifth consecutive gold medal.

With former US President Barack Obama sitting on the sidelines, they showed why by beating Canada 86-72 in an exhibition game at T-Mobile Arena on Wednesday.

Anthony Edwards led the U.S. with 13 points on 6-of-10 shooting. Steph Curry added 12 points and made three 3-pointers. Anthony Davis made his presence felt in the post with 10 points and 11 rebounds, while LeBron James had 7 points on 3-of-7 shooting from the field.

RJ Barrett led Canada with 12 points and 5 rebounds.

“It was a good first game for us,” U.S. coach Steve Kerr said. “We just got started — four days of practice. You could see the rust on the offensive end with a lot of turnovers in that first half. But I liked that defensive intensity and the work on the glass. It was a good first try and we had to set a tone for how we play and I think we did that.”

The U.S. team took some time to find their rhythm early on. Despite the incredible amount of talent on the court, this was their first competitive match as a collective — and it showed.

Bad turnovers and missed shots allowed Canada to take an 11-1 lead.

It wasn’t until Curry’s 3-pointer nearly five minutes into the game that they attempted a field goal. Canada even led 21-14 after the first quarter.

But those struggles didn’t last long. The Americans started the second quarter on a 7-0 run and never looked back. Their second unit — led by Edwards and Davis — was a key factor in turning things around.

“It was a slow start, which wasn’t surprising since we’re just getting started here, but I like the second group,” Kerr said. “Then the defense, pushing the tempo for us in transition, made some good plays to really kickstart our offense and that got us into the game.”

USA Basketball, celebrating its 50th anniversary this summer, paid tribute to legends of the past by bringing out members of medal-winning teams during a break in the action. Among those in attendance in Las Vegas were Patrick Ewing, John Stockton, Grant Hill, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony.

Obama, who had spoken to the team before the game, also received a loud cheer as he walked to his seat on the floor.

Curry said the former president was “really inspiring with his words.”

“It was cool to send us on this trip to celebrate 50 years of USAB and what we’re trying to do this summer,” Curry said. “I got goosebumps when he spoke. It makes you feel good about who you’re representing.”

The U.S. begins its quest for another gold medal on July 28 against Serbia, featuring former NBA MVP Nikola Jokić. Unlike Wednesday night, it’s not a game they can afford to start slow.

James said that over time there will be coherence.

“It’s easy to gel when you have one common goal, and our common goal is to play hard and win gold,” he said. “It shouldn’t take long.”

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