October 25, 2014
Derrick Rose doesn’t need to be the best player on Team USA.
As the 114-55 victory Saturday over Finland showed, Rose doesn’t even need to be a starter.
He just needs to play with confidence and come out of each FIBA World Cup game without a limp.
Check and check.
Thanks to a second quarter in which it outscored Finland 29-2, Team USA gave the rest of the world a glimpse of its awesome potential in its opener.
More important for the Bulls, there were flashes of Rose’s explosiveness that seemed to go into hibernation the last few weeks.
Backing up starting point guard Kyrie Irving, Rose, who had 12 points and shot 3-for-8 from the field, eased his way into the game, checking in midway through the first quarter and missing a put-back off a rebound. His first points came minutes later when he stole the ball and was fouled going to the hoop. He made the free throws, but with 54 seconds left in the first quarter, he missed another layup.
But it was vintage Rose at the end of the quarter. He had a three-point play that gave the United States a 31-16 lead.
That Rose highlight everyone was waiting for finally arrived with 2:43 left in the half. He did his patented crossover at the top of the key, then exploded to the rim for a two-handed slam that put Team USA up 55-18.
Rose went 5-for-5 from the free-throw line, made a three-pointer and had three assists, a steal and two rebounds. If there was a criticism of Rose’s performance in Bilbao, Spain, it was his five turnovers.
After a productive first quarter, Finland went ice-cold in the second, going 0-for-17 and missing 19 consecutive shots before scoring early in the third quarter. The Finns shot 18-for-65 (27.7 percent) from the field, including 4-for-21 from three-point range. Bulls 2013 second-round pick Erik Murphy was their third-leading scorer with 10 points.
Four players scored in double figures for the U.S. team, led by a game-high 18 points from guard Klay Thompson, who, like Rose, came off the bench.
Team USA’s best player, however, was Anthony Davis, who continued to sparkle in his breakout summer.
Davis shot 6-for-8 from the field, scored 17 points and grabbed four rebounds, giving Team USA a presence at the rim that made a poor-shooting team from Finland look even worse.
There will be little time to appreciate the dominance, however, as Team USA takes on Turkey on Sunday.
Since arriving in Spain early this week, Rose has maintained that the “fatigue’’ that cost him a few days of practice and an exhibition in New York two weeks ago was behind him.
That’s good news for the 2010-11 NBA MVP.
Even better news is new Bulls teammate Pau Gasol’s performance for Spain. He shot 12-for-20, scored 33 points and grabbed eight rebounds in a 90-60 rout of Iran.