With 7:42 left in the second quarter of Team USA’s Sunday exhibition game against Spain in Madrid, the Spaniards had begun to come back from an explosive Team USA start.
With an early 16-point lead trimmed to eight due thanks to the play of Ricky Rubio, a draftee of Kurt Rambis’ Minnesota Timberwolves, the NBATV cameras picked up a shot of Lamar Odom gesturing demonstrably with his hands. L.A.’s forward continuously brought his thumbs to meet fingers in the form of a clamp, signifying to the Americans that they must communicate better after Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose failed to rotate into the paint when Chauncey Billups was beaten off the dribble.
Improve, they would.
On the next possession, Durant did well to close out on a perimeter shot, and Odom sealed the rebound with two hands. Then Odom took three big steps up the court with ball in hand to start the break, finding Billups on the right wing before cutting to the hoop. Billups rewarded Odom’s continued sprint to the basket with a pretty pass, resulting in a two-handed dunk.
Odom kept going, gathering another defensive board, and just missing an offensive rebound at the other end before the ball went out of bounds. The two younger NBAers Odom had encouraged to communicate moments earlier then made consecutively excellent defensive plays to force Spanish turnovers, and after the second, Durant fed Odom for a lefty layup, plus the harm. L.O. missed the freebie, but he made up for it with a swat on defense. Billups capitalized with a layup, and team USA was back up by 14.
Odom’s line in that two-minute stretch: four points, three rebounds, one block and lots of talking.
The lanky lefty’s influence was apparent in the second half, as well. He was on the bench during Spain’s biggest run, during which Rubio and Marc Gasol helped cut the USA lead down to just two points. Yet by the end of the quarter, Odom helped the Americans build the lead back to 11, capped by a transition layup from Odom at the buzzer that made it 69-58.
In a more closely played final period, Odom made a key layup with 4:30 remaining, then made up for air-balling a potential tie-breaking corner three by clearing his ninth rebound* and starting a break which led to Rose’s slick driving layup with 32 seconds left.
*Odom added 12 points.
Spain’s Juan Carlos Navarro responded with a critical driving layup plus the foul to put Spain up 85-84 with 27 seconds to play, but Rose put the USA back up a point by converting two free throws. The game-clinching play came on defense, as Durant rose to swat a Rudy Fernandez jumper as time expired.
Both Durant and Rose were terrific particularly after Odom’s key second quarter stanza; fitting it was that the two would combine with Odom to secure victory for Team USA.