Team USA shakes off slow start to beat Canada in pre-Olympics exhibition opener

United States center Bam Adebayo (13) dunks during the first half of an exhibition basketball game against Canada, Wednesday, July 10, 2024, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Steve Marcus)

Team USA looked casually dominant against Canada, whom it might face in the Olympic final. (AP Photo/Steve Marcus)

Team USA began its pre-Olympics exhibition tour against arguably its biggest competition for the gold medal. It was an encouraging start.

Led by Anthony Edwards and Anthony Davis, the Americans defeated Canada 86-72 on Wednesday in Las Vegas. The team has four exhibitions remaining over the next two weeks before heading to Paris, against Australia, Serbia, South Sudan and Germany.

The game opened as a slog, despite featuring the two teams most stocked with NBA talent from top to bottom. With Kevin Durant out with a calf strain, Team USA opened with a starting lineup of LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Joel Embiid, Devin Booker and Joel Embiid. The group didn’t seem to work very well, but the exercise might have been experimental as much as anything.

Team USA didn’t score its first field goal until the fifth minute of play and was behind 21-14 at the end of the first quarter. There was also the inevitable revival of the “rivalry” between James and Dillon Brooks, who again had something to say before the game.

Fortunately, the Americans had no shortage of looks to throw at Canada. When one quintet of NBA All-Stars falls short, another awaits. The second quarter began with a 14-2 run and Edwards looking like its No. 1 option on the second unit, as prophesized.

It still wasn’t the prettiest of basketball, but Team USA stayed on top for the rest of the night, while fans got to enjoy moments such as a James-to-Curry alley-oop.

Edwards led all scorers with 13 points off the bench, with Curry, Holiday and Davis also hitting double digits in scoring. Davis also had the game’s only double-double, posting 11 rebounds, four blocks, two assists and two steals.

RJ Barrett led Canada with 12 points. Keep in mind international games are played with 10-minute quarters rather than the NBA’s 12 minutes.

Given that Team USA barely beats its Select team, led by 17-year-old Cooper Flagg, in a scrimmage earlier this week, Wednesday was a nice step forward. The Americans are still considered an overwhelming favorite to win their fifth straight gold medal in Paris, and there’s little reason to expect that to change barring something drastic.

Team USA is scheduled to open its Olympic campaign against Serbia, featuring reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokić, on July 28.

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