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USA handily beats Tunisia but doesn’t earn many style points

Jul 31, 2012, 7:20 PM EDT

Andre Iguodala, Mohamed Hadidane AP

Every time the 2012 Team USA steps on the court they face two opponents. First, it’s the team lined up in the other colored jerseys. Second, there is the USA Basketball legacy — the 1960 team of West and Robertson, the Dream Team and beyond — and how they measure up.

Team USA beat Tunisia 110-63 thanks to a monster 39 point third quarter Thursday at the London Olympics. The USA is now the only 2-0 in Group A play and controls their own destiny.

But in the style-points battle with legacy the Dream Team and history got the win. Not that this current team really cares much about it, but games like this give their doubters (in terms of this team’s legacy) fuel.

That’s because Team USA started out with some lethargic play and struggled in the first half to put away a vastly inferior Tunisian team. Tunisia opened the game up 8-4 and had a 13-12 lead more than seven minutes into contest. It happened in part because USA again was cold from the outside —they started 0-8 from three. And the USA’s defense was passive. This was a Tunisian team that scored 15 points in the entire first half against Nigeria and equaled that inside eight minutes against USA.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski had seen enough, subbed out all five starters at once (hockey style) late in the first to try and change defensive energy. It worked. The USA went on a 12-0 run. In fact it worked so well that Coach K started that unit for the second half.

Let’s give some credit to Tunisia — they are feisty and hung around. They actually got the lead down to five in the second quarter before USA went on 11-0 run. USA was up 46-33 at the half — it was the least impressive 13-point lead in the history of basketball.

Team USA’s second unit started the second half on a 23-3 run and the USA made a run at the 54-point spread that Las Vegas had on the game. Team USA shot 15-of-18 in the third quarter, they were 10-of-17 from three after the first quarter and blew the game wide open. That included Anthony Davis getting lob after lob for dunks from teammates.

The USA outscored Tunisia by 34 in the second half and the rout we all expected was on.

The only scary moment of the second half was when Kevin Love drove the lane and had some knee-on-knee contact with a Tunisian big man, which had Love limping to the sidelines. However, it was more of a just a bruise, he was moving fine a few minutes later and when Anthony Davis had a beautiful dunk he was leaping out of his seat cheering like he was just fine. He returned to the game in the fourth quarter.

Tunisia was led by Macram Ben Romdhane who had 22 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists.

The USA had six guys in double figures with Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Love leading the way with 16 points. Anthony Davis had 12 points on a perfect 5-for-5 shooting night.

It ended up being a laugher and the USA got the win they expected. It may not have lived up to the impossible standards of how we view the Dream Team through rose-colored glasses, but that doesn’t really matter in the end. This team will let the old guys have the win on style points and they will take this one, which moves them one step closer to their goal of a gold medal.

Next up for the USA is a slightly tougher test against Nigeria on Thursday. But only slightly.

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