U.S. men's basketball team wins with defense at Verizon Center

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Sports,NBA,Wizards,Craig Stouffer

Stand in second quarter proves difference against Brazil

The "Kiss Cam" at Verizon Center turned onto President Obama and the first lady in the second quarter of the U.S. men's national team's game against Brazil on Monday. The most powerful couple in the world, however, denied satisfaction to the sellout crowd of 20,390, with the first lady in particular preferring just to smile.

The U.S. men's national team, which couldn't find a rhythm on offense, seemed to appreciate the gesture. It responded by positively shutting down a Brazilian team that had been having its way early, holding the South Americans to just two baskets in the second quarter. The defensive stand turned a 10-point first-quarter deficit into a five-point halftime lead and eventually a 80-69 victory.

The president visited the U.S. team during halftime, but U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski would have preferred he talked more X's and O's.

"He was just socializing with us," Krzyzewski said. "I'm not sure he knew the score of the game. ... [Obama] should've told them to start hitting shots."

LeBron James led the U.S. team with 30 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter, and Kevin Durant had 11 point off the bench. But with the team struggling to shoot (finishing 41 percent from the field) -- Carmelo Anthony didn't get his first of only three points until the fourth quarter -- and to share the ball (11 assists), a combined 19 steals played a far bigger role.

Six different U.S. players registered at least one during the momentum shifting second period, led by three from Chris Paul (10 points, four assists) and two each from Kobe Bryant (eight points) and Tyson Chandler (three points, one rebound).

Led by Barcelona point guard Marcelo Huertas (11 points, 13 assists), Anderson Varejao (12 points, 13 rebounds) and sharpshooting Alex Garcia, who had 12 of his team-high 14 points in the opening period, Brazil shot 63 percent and led 27-17 after the first quarter.

But in the second quarter, Brazil attempted only nine shots and converted just the two while turning the ball over 12 times. Bryant swiped the ball from Wizards center Nene (eight points, six assists, five turnovers) to set up James' driving slam to cut the deficit to 29-23. Durant's alley-oop from Bryant was followed by Bryant knocking down a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 29-28. Chandler yanked the ball from Garcia under the basket and dropped in a layup to give the United States a lead it never relinquished, going into halftime up 37-32.

Huertas opened the second half by dishing to Tiago Splitter to bring Brazil within 37-34, but after another 3 from Bryant, the visitors never got closer than six.

When the Kiss Cam did make another appearance in the fourth quarter, the president also delivered with a huge kiss for his wife that received an enthusiastic roar of applause from the crowd.

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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Craig Stouffer

Staff writer - sports
The Washington Examiner