On Sunday afternoon in Istanbul, Turkey, Lamar Odom scored eight points and grabbed nine rebounds to help Team USA secure a narrow 70-68 victory, improving the American’s record to 3-0 at the World Championships.
Starting at center for the third consecutive game despite generally playing power forward for the Lakers, Odom played 30 of the 40 minutes for USA coach Mike Krzyzewski, second only to Kevin Durant’s 37 minutes. Odom, who has guarded NBA centers at times but rarely has to for Phil Jackson, spent much of his time banging bodies with Brazil’s 6-11 center, Tiago Splitter.
Splitter, who will play alongside Tim Duncan in San Antonio next season, was widely considered to be the best big man in Europe for the past few years. He managed a 13-point, 10-rebound double-double against the U.S., but saw limited action in the fourth quarter after Odom drew the Brazilian’s fourth foul on a charge late in the third period.
Krzyzewski and his squad were afforded the benefit of Odom’s ball-handling* and passing abilities at a position usually lacking such skills, thanks to his ability to simultaneously contain Brazil’s biggest low post threat. As such, more traditional center Tyson Chandler was needed for only five minutes, the same number played by backup power forward Kevin Love.
*Odom did have four turnovers, however.
Leading the team on the offensive end was Durant, who netted 27 points on 18 shots, canning four three-pointers as well as leading the team with 10 boards in 37 minutes.
Derrick Rose and Chauncey Billups – who join Durant, Odom and Andre Iguodala in the starting lineup – combined for 26 points in the U.S. back court, but the bench contributed only six points on the evening.
Team USA shot just 41.8 percent from the field, but went to the foul line 23 times compared to Brazil’s eight, signifying the American’s ability to get into the paint. Brazil, on the other hand, attempted 28 threes (0.7 per minute), and while early success from distance helped the South Americans build a lead, the well dried up late.
Up next for Odom and Co. is a Wednesday afternoon contest against Iran, followed by Thursday’s game against Tunisia to conclude group play. Should the U.S. continue their winning ways against the two weakest teams in their group, they’ll shore up the top seed in Group B heading into the next round of action.