By Patrick Graham
LONDON (Reuters) – Even the highly-paid elite of the NBA have to adapt sometimes and by their own admission it took the U.S. men’s basketball team much of the first half against a poor French team to begin to impose themselves on Sunday.
In the end it was a procession, with Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and co. racking up a 27-point win over the French, seen as an outside candidate for the bronze medal ahead of the launch of the games’ basketball tournament on Sunday.
But the bulk of the team said afterwards they were still adapting to the differing rules applied to the game outside of the United States and in international competition.
James pointed to the goaltending rule which allows players to block shots around the basket more easily, as well as the shorter duration of the game and the sheer volume of fouls being called by officials.
“We just have to play through it,” he told reporters after the game.
“We learned a lot of things out there today,” U.S. guard Chris Paul added. “A lot of us have played international – not as much contact (is allowed). As point guard I’m always telling the guys – we got to get through the early part of the quarter without picking up many fouls.”
The first quarter on Sunday was almost a draw – 22-21 for coach Mike Krzyzewski’s men – and the difference half way through the second quarter was just 9 points.
“The first half was kind of slow,” forward Carmelo Anthony said.
“We were just trying to figure it out, to play with the rhythm of the game, the slow pace, the amount of calls that were being called. Once we figured that out we settled.”
Next up for the U.S. team will be Tunisia, while France play a key game against Argentina on Tuesday.
Asked if the team had laid off and should have beaten France by more, Anthony added:
“We don’t agree with that. We know that everybody is expecting us to win by 30-40 points. But at the end of the day it’s winning that’s important. That’s what we’re focussed on.”
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