NEW YORK (AP) â” Stephen Curry scored 20 points and the U.S. national team pulled away in the second half to beat Puerto Rico 112-86 on Friday night in its final home exhibition game before the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
Derrick Rose came off the bench for the Americans, who used 12 of their 16 players and are expected to cut at least a couple of them on Saturday before departing for Spain. They will play a final exhibition game there against Slovenia and will need to have their final 12-man roster set the day before their Aug. 30 opener against Finland.
All-Star Damian Lillard, Andre Drummond, Gordon Hayward and DeMar DeRozan didn’t play.
James Harden added 13 points for the Americans.
The U.S. led 52-47 after Klay Thompson’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of an entertaining first half before a divided crowd that included plenty of Puerto Rican fans. Knicks All-Star and two-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist Carmelo Anthony, who is part Puerto Rican, was in the front row along with golfer Rory McIlroy and tennis star Andy Murray.
Rose checked in midway through the first quarter after sitting out the previous game and a couple of practices this week after feeling soreness following last Saturday’s exhibition opener against Brazil. He has sat out most of the last two seasons after a pair of knee surgeries, and has to prove he is ready to lead a U.S. team that has already lost some good players this summer to withdrawals and injuries.
The Americans are still good enough to defend their world title with the roster that remains but are vulnerable, which Puerto Rico proved by staying right with them for 20 minutes.
But they can also turn close games into blowouts in a hurry, which they did by outscoring Puerto Rico 14-2 to open the second half, with some energetic plays from starting forward Kenneth Faried on both ends, to open a 66-49 lead.
Puerto Rico’s veteran backcourt of Carlos Arroyo and J.J. Barea has loads of international and NBA experience, and they didn’t wilt under relentless U.S. pressure the way so many other teams do. Former Knicks forward Renaldo Balkman also started for the Puerto Ricans, who play in Group B along with regional rival Argentina, Croatia, Greece, Senegal and the Philippines.
But the U.S. made 13 of 21 shots in the third quarter, while Anthony Davis and Faried seemed to contest everything Puerto Rico shot, and the Americans pushed it to 87-67 heading to the fourth. Curry had the highlight play of the second half, a long behind-the-back pass to Harden for a bucket.
Follow Brian Mahoney on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Briancmahoney