Thursday, August 21, 2014

Dominican Republic 62 vs USA 105 (FIBA Exhibition Basketball) - August 20, 2014


It has been a quiet month on the blog as I started a new job and released my book, Ultimate Football Road Trip. It went viral last week as my comment about Bills fans being the drunkest in the league was picked up by sites around the country. I did about 20 radio interviews and was featured on a couple of national NFL pages, but in the end, the attention didn't lead to a spot on the New York Times best sellers list. Yet. If you haven't bought the book, now is the best time to do so as the NFL season is just two weeks away. There is nothing like it out there, a perfect NFL travel guide for the 2014 season.

Anyway, with my new job being in Jersey City, I don't have time or energy to head out to 3½ hour baseball games in the evening, so I hadn't seen a sporting event since the Champions Cup match between Liverpool and Manchester City three weeks prior. Fortunately, the New York area has a few events other than MLB teams playing out the string, including USA Basketball making a couple of appearances at MSG as they prepare for the FIBA World Cup, taking place in Spain from August 30 - September 14.



The first game saw the USA take on the Dominican Republic, who are in the same group at the World Cup. As MSG is midway between the office and home, it makes a convenient spot to stop by on a weeknight. My friend Eddie joined me, and while I was waiting for him, Isaiah Austin entered the lobby. The crowd immediately congregated around him, taking pictures, some of them quite awestruck. If you didn't hear the story, Austin played two years at Baylor before declaring for the 2014 NBA draft. As part of draft process, all prospects are given medical exams, and it turned out that the 7'1" Austin has Marfan Syndrome, which precluded any chance at a career in professional basketball. The league invited him up on stage during the draft and has promised him a job after he graduates. Still, you would think that having your life's dream derailed at the last minute would leave one bitter, but Austin has shown incredible maturity. He graciously took pictures with dozens of fans, shaking hands and chatting with anyone who spoke to him. It took him about 20 minutes to make his way through the lobby, stopping every few seconds for another photo.



After Austin finally made his way into the arena and the crowd settled down, Eddie appeared. We went to the ticket window and found that there were still cheap ($35) seats available low in the 200 level. Good enough. I wasn't expecting a competitive match, but wanted to see the US team, even though it is missing a number of their stars after the Kevins (Durant and Love) withdrew and Paul George suffered that gruesome injury.



You might consider it a third-tier All-Star team considering Mason Plumlee and Kenneth Faried are on the roster, but not all the players are at that level; James Harden (above) and Raptor DeMar DeRozan (below) are two of the stars on the squad, coached by Mike Krzyzewski of Duke.



The game was wonderful to watch because there were so few stoppages. There was only 1 media timeout per quarter, so the entire 40 minutes of action took just over 90 minutes of real time. NBA games last nearly an hour longer with just 8 additional minutes of game time.



There was never any doubt the USA would win, but they still played lights out, shooting 58% from the field and 44% from three point land while suffocating the DR on defense. They also tried a few crowd pleasing alley-oops, such as Andre Drummond with the one-hander above. Drummond scored 12 points in 16 minutes and played himself onto the final roster, which was announced a couple of days later. The final score was 105-62, with six US players in double figures (but none scoring over 13 points) in a well-balanced attack. It was a lot of fun to see basketball as it should be played, without all the stupid fouls and stoppages. Sure it was a blowout, but I enjoyed watching the talent on display. Well worth the investment, and it will interesting to see if the US can compete with the top nations such as Argentina and Spain next month.



Notes

The US won each 10-minute quarter as follows: 28-17, 25-14, 27-14, 25-17. A consistent, dominating performance.

The US played Puerto Rico on Friday, winning 112-86. They certainly seem ready for the World Cup.

During the game, the fans showed their love for ex-Jet Jerricho Cotchery, yelling out "Jerricho! Jerricho!" throughout the evening. In an unrelated item, Derrick Rose did not play due to soreness.

Afterwards Eddie and I stopped by the Flying Puck, a hockey-themed pub a block away from the Garden. Think I might have found my watering hole on the way home from work during the upcoming NHL season.

Next Up

I've got a good number of weekend trips planned for the rest of the year, which can be seen on the schedule. Work means no time for extended journeys, but it also means a bit of income so I can jet off every second weekend or so to exotic places such as Buffalo, Detroit, Minneapolis, Jacksonville and London for NFL games. Next weekend I'll be in Alabama for 3 minor league baseball games and NCAA football at UAB, but before that, I'll be visiting the New York Red Bulls again. They host FAS, a Salvadoran soccer team in the CONCACAF Champions League on Tuesday night. Canadian champs Montreal Impact are also in the same group, so it is an important game in that respect as well. Check back for a report later this week.

Best,

Sean

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