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2007 FIBA Americas: Suns Report for Day 2

USA by 64 over Raja Bell-less Virgin Islands (123-59)

The Alpha Dogs once again defeated the Underdogs, this time by a whopping 64 points to give the USA its second-largest ever margin of victory.  The mystery of whether Raja Bell would play for the Virgin Islands has now been answered. Raja is not playing due to recovery from knee surgery earlier this summer. This left Team USA once again with a 12-0 advantage in the number of NBA players on the team. It seemed to me like the Virgin Islands played with a lot more "pep" and energy than Venezuela did last night, but--as might be expected from the #38-ranked team facing the #1-ranked team--they were just hopelessly out-gunned from the opening tip.

Unlike last night, when it was pretty clear who was running the show, tonight's performance by the "big three" was a lot more subdued. Birthday boy Kobe Bryant only took four shots, and ended up with nine points and four assists. LeBron James had eight points on 4-4 shooting along with five assists and three steals, and oddly, zero trips to the free throw line. Carmelo Anthony tied Michael Redd for game-high scoring with 22 points on 6-9 shooting, along with four assists and six rebounds (no trouble getting to the line for Anthony, who also made 8-9 free throws). Michael Redd probably deserves the game ball tonight as much as anyone for the 4-9 three pointers to go with three assists and 4-4 from the line.

Amare Stoudemire didn't enter the game until 3:48 remaining in the first quarter. By then, the USA already led 26-9, and the outcome was just a question of how large the margin of victory would eventually be. It can't be easy for Amare to go from being "the man" on scoring to being just another role player off the bench. He looked a little lost at first, like he wasn't really sure where he fit in out there. He appeared to be a bit frustrated at one point when he cut to the basket and the ball never came, shrugging his shoulders before heading back on defense. The best way to describe his appearance in the first half of the game is probably "invisible", sad to say.

Amare's third quarter stint was much more productive. He played with more energy, and had a nice sequence where he dunked in a Billups lob, grabbed his own rebound and stuffed, nailed a turnaround jumper, then got to the line before finishing off an alley-oop from Tayshaun Prince. For a couple of minutes, he was starting to resemble the Amare we are used to seeing. He ended up with 13 points, on 6-7 shooting, to go with four rebounds, an assist, and a block. Unlike last night, his free throw shooting was ice cold, hitting only 1-4. Amare played 17 minutes off the bench, two more than Dwight Howard who once again started at center. In a way, I think Amare is facing a similar adjustment to what Boris Diaw had to deal with this past season, trying to figure out where he fits in on a team stacked to the brim with offensive talent. As SwingMan said in the comments to the game thread, this would be an ideal time for Amare to work on his defense. After all, you don't need the ball to do that.

Player of the Game: Michael Redd, Carmelo Anthony. Carmelo Anthony, Michael Redd. I'm going with Michael. 'Melo will get plenty of chances to appear in this spot. Besides, Redd's unselfish assist in the fourth quarter when he could have taken the shot himself gave Amare two more points.

Runner-Up: Let's put 'Melo here tonight. I usually give this spot to someone on the losing team, but just like last night, nobody stood out.

Random Thought: Bill Walton on who the Lakers might be able to get in return if they decided to trade Kobe Bryant: "Steve Nash is one guy, except he's over 30". Hmmm... Nash for Kobe - any takers?

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