Trailing early in its final tune-up before the Olympics, Team USA leaned on Carmelo Anthony to jumpstart an offense that was stagnant and ineffective against the No. 2 ranked team in the world.
Anthony’s number was called in the first quarter to replace his Knicks teammate Tyson Chandler as Team USA shifted to a small-ball lineup. In less than a minute, Anthony buried a 3-pointer at the top of the arc, followed by another trey to knock Spain’s lead down to 12-9 at the 4:37 mark. Feeding off the offensive energy from Anthony, Team USA started to generate some cohesion on that side of the floor against a squad that featured Jose Calderon, Serge Ibaka, Pau Gasol, and Marc Gasol, who sat out due to injury.
”Carmelo was sensational,” Team USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski stated. “I thought his play in the first quarter and second period was the difference in the game because Spain came out and played such great basketball but Carmelo kind of kept us in and then our bench kept us in.”
In the second period, Anthony’s hot streak continued, especially from downtown where LeBron James and company found him for open opportunities. The All-Star worked off the bounce, inside the paint, and nailed five 3-pointers en route to 23 first half points.
ESPN analyst and international basketball guru Fran Fraschilla lauded Anthony’s performance at the break, “When you talk about Carmelo, he’s been playing since 2004 on the international stage for Team USA. This will be his third Olympics. He understands FIBA basketball and how to get his shots in the flow of the game.”
Anthony added a FIBA style tip-in during the third quarter and USA built a 14-point advantage heading into the final stanza. The red, white, and blue ended up cruising throughout the fourth period, capturing an impressive 100-78 victory in Barcelona. Unquestionably, this was Anthony's best outing of the five exhibition wins for Team USA. He finished with a game-high 27 points on 10-for-15 shooting from the floor and 5-for-8 behind the arc.
Next up for Team USA is a trip to the host city of the 2012 Olympics for the final training session before action begins in London. Team USA will start its quest for another gold medal in Pool A on the opposite side of Spain. The first game for the Americans is set for July 29 against France.