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Team USA pulls away from Canada in 1st Paris Olympics exhibition

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Team USA pulls away from Canada in 1st Paris Olympics exhibition


Led by Anthony Edwards (13 points) and Anthony Davis (double-double), Team USA defeats Team Canada 86-72 in an Olympic tune-up.

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• USA 86, Canada 72: Box score

LAS VEGAS — You can put a team of All-Stars, future Hall of Famers and all-time greats together for the first time and even with all of that talent it can still seem like … a first time.

“We got a long way to go,” said LeBron James.

Actually, Team USA has four more exhibitions to go before the Paris Olympics begin, to be precise. But cosmetically speaking, Wednesday’s match with Canada was short on style and grace, and the Americans are expecting a lot more of themselves once the real Games begin.

The Canadians scored 11 of the game’s first 12 points at T-Mobile Arena, with Team USA awash in mistakes, missed shots and blown assignments. Again, to be expected.

USA figured it out in time to seize control late in the second quarter, going up eight at halftime on an Anthony Edwards’ 3-pointer at the buzzer and never trailed again in an 86-72 victory.

With a handful of dignitaries watching at court side, including former president Barack Obama, there were a few highlights sprinkled in; a LeBron block led to a Devin Booker 3-pointer.

Check out the best plays from Team USA’s pre-Olympic exhibition win against Canada.

And most vividly, a Steph Curry trademark night-night pose after an and-1 layup.

Edwards led all scorers with 13 points off the bench, while the Canadians, after a hot start, managed just 34% shooting.

“The first game was what to be expected,” said Kerr. “But we’ll have a few chances to work a few things out.”

Uneven, sometimes sloppy, coaches and players didn’t put too much emphasis on the grand opening. It’s just a start.

“I’ll say this much: It’s good to play meaningful games in July,” said Curry.


The first starting five

Kerr put LeBron, Booker, Curry, Jrue Holiday and Joel Embiid to start the game. The three-guard lineup was deemed necessary because Canada is guard-thick and center-thin.

The real purpose was to put Holiday on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for a test run, for when these teams meet again, presumably, in Paris. Holiday’s presence on the team is for this very reason — the ability to cause defensive chaos for the world’s best offensive guards.

“I try to do my job to the best of my ability,” Holiday said. “I’m a real competitor. I do the best I can. Trying to make everyone around me better. Trying to do what it takes to win.”

Kerr said he’ll toss different starting lineups between now and Paris to understand rotations and to see who works best together. Once the Olympics begin, Kerr could settle on a regular 5, but again, it’ll depend on the matchups.

Strangely enough, Embiid fouled out midway through the third quarter, going up against Dwight Powell and Kelly Olynyk. Embiid may be a bit out of shape and some USA Basketball officials have wondered if he’ll be able to guard bigs who stretch the floor.


Canada no slouch

Canada will be a medal favorite. The Canadians are one of the few countries that can start five current NBA players. And a 2023-24 MVP finalist in Gilgeous-Alexander.

That said, Team Canada was just as rusty, and none of the starters played more than 18 minutes. It was an exhibition and it was treated as such.

Just to put the NBA talent in context: Canada’s five backup players were all on NBA rosters last season, too.


The feud continues 

Of course, any game with LeBron and Dillon Brooks on the floor would never be drama-free. LeBron gave him an obligatory yet mild acknowledgement before tipoff and it only got chillier from there.

Eighty-eight seconds into the game, Brooks sent LeBron to the floor with a shove disguised as a foul.

Three minutes later, LeBron returned the favor, with a shoulder, then an elbow check.

There’s no love here. LeBron would rather embrace Lance Stephenson if given a choice between the two. The history between LeBron and Brooks is laced with spice, most famously in the playoffs two years ago when Brooks hit LeBron in the groin and taunted him. LeBron sent him home — and had words.

With T-Mobile largely comprised of Lakers fans, Brooks was roundly booed whenever he touched the ball and of course during introductions.

“It’s normal,” he said. “They know who I am, they want to boo me. It’s normal.”


Then there was 11

Team USA took the floor as an incomplete team, with the 12th man — Kawhi Leonard — a permanent scratch because of knee issues.

Grant Hill, the director of USA Basketball, said the decision regarding Leonard’s withdraw simply came down to one issue: He wasn’t healthy enough and it was jointly made with the Clippers.

“It’s tough,” Hill said. “We were all in alignment going in and there’s always a possibility of someone getting hurt. I applaud him for coming here and willing to sacrifice. Ultimately, it didn’t work out.”

Hill disputed a not-so-veiled accusation made on social media Wednesday by Celtics forward Jaylen Brown that Nike decides who does and who doesn’t make the men’s team.

Hill said: “For a good portion of my career, I wore Fila. That was supposed to be a joke. We’re proud of our partners at USA Basketball. This is about putting together a team. Whatever theories are out there, they’re just that.”

Anyway, regarding Brown, the Finals MVP: “One of the hardest things is leaving people off the roster that I’m a fan of.”

Team USA departs Friday for two games in Abu Dhabi, before traveling to London for two more games, then Paris.

* * *

Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on X.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Warner Bros. Discovery.





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