Cavs’ Irving key as US batters Venezuela

Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving helped lift the United States to an ugly exhibition win over Venezuela. (Getty Images photo)

It was an unsightly game with plenty of defense and a fair share of lousy shooting. That’s not typical of this U.S. Olympic basketball team.

But the result sure was, with the Americans laying down another hammer job. This time it was the good ol’ USA scoring an 80-45 exhibition win over Venezuela on Friday in Chicago.

For the first time, it wasn’t pretty. For the fourth time, it was a blowout victory. The United States will gladly accept such outcomes when the real thing begins in early August.

Leading the way? No less than Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving, who patiently ran the offense, forced nothing, and scored 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting.

Klay Thompson also scored 13, and Irving and Thompson should only become more cohesive as this thing marches on — in the event opponents weren’t already overwhelmed enough.

And that’s only the backcourt. Up front, DeMarcus Cousins and DeAndre Jordan continued their utter domination of the paint, with Cousins pulling down 12 impressive rebounds. Overall, Team USA’s Towers of Power combined for 15 points and 18 boards.

That’s the good. Now here comes the bad and the ugly: The U.S. went just 4-of-25 (16 percent) on 3-pointers and 20-of-32 on free throws.

Still, it’s hard to focus on flaws when you win by 35.

“Quite frankly, I’m very pleased about tonight,” U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski told reporters in Chicago. “You don’t just want to just hit 17 threes and not work hard. We had to work real hard tonight.”

Kevin Durant added nine points and DeMar DeRozan had eight, including the final two of the night off a windmill jam.

Venezuela was led by a game-high 14 points from John Cox.

The U.S. concludes exhibition play Monday vs. Nigeria. That game will be played in Houston.


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