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USA Basketball downs Puerto Rico, makes cuts

USA Basketball men’s World Cup team closed out its domestic exhibition schedule with a 112-86 victory over Puerto Rico at Madison Square Garden on Aug. 22. Following the game, head coach Mike Krzyzewski announced that Chandler Parsons, Damian Lilliard , Kyle Korver and Gordon Hayward will not make the trip with the team to Spain.

Tied at 24 after the first quarter, the U.S. went on a tear in the second half by going on a 16-4 run and looked like they were going to pull away. However, Puerto Rico kept hanging around thanks to hot three-point shooting and solid play from guards Carlos Arroyo and J.J. Barea.

Puerto Rico got within two in the waning seconds of the first half before Klay Thompon hit a running pull-up triple to put the Americans up 52-47 at the break.

It was all U.S. in the second half. The red, white and blue took control early in the third quarter extending the lead to double digits. The U.S. pushed their advantage to 20 by the end of the stanza.

Stephen Curry led the way with 20 points, on 6-of-7 shooting, and also contributed four assists. Rudy Guy and James Harden each contributed 13 points while Kenneth Faried continued to impress on both ends of the court. Faried finished the night with 12 points on flawless 6-of-6 shooting, five rebounds and two blocked shots.

The biggest story of the night was the return to the court of Derrick Rose, who missed the U.S.’s exhibition win over the Dominican Republic on Aug. 20. Rose looked real good in limited action, scoring six points and dishing out four assist. He knocked down 2-of-3 shots, including a three-pointer.

"I feel very confident about Derrick," Krzyzewski said before the final roster was announced. "I think Derrick feels very confident. Thought he played great tonight. And these guys want to play with him.

"Part of getting back is to be around a group of peers," Krzyzewski continued. "These guys are peers who want [Rose] to be really good. ... Hopefully that will help Derrick as he gets ready to keep participating in this but also for the NBA season. I think it is a huge, huge help for him."

The U.S. wasn’ t expect to announce cuts to the roster until later Saturday (Aug. 23) but after the “Brain Trust” met following the game and Krzyzewski announced their decisions at 1 a.m. Saturday, in a news release.

The only real surprise is that Lillard was cut so early because Rose’s healthy is so iffy. It was thought the U.S. might take a few extra bodies to Spain at least for their last exhibition game against Slovenia in Gran Canaria on Aug. 26, and Lillard would be among those players.

Korver and Haywood were expected to make the team by some “insiders” due to their long range shooting prowess. But DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay played so well and Krzyzewski ultimately decided that the U.S. would be better off with an extra “Big”.

The World Cup begins Aug. 30.