Rapid Reaction: U.S. turns away Ukraine

BILBAO, Spain -- Some at-the-buzzer instant analysis from press row at the Bilbao Exhibition Center after Team USA completed Group C play here Thursday with a 95-71 victory over Ukraine:

How It Happened: U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski considers his dear friend Mike Fratello "one of the greatest coaches in the world."

You certainly saw here in Spain that Fratello can get a lot out of a limited Ukraine squad.

After a number of Team USA players spoke of the need to play with more energy and assert themselves early in games, Ukraine still managed to slow things down for a quarter and a half better than anyone imagined. Ukraine took a 19-14 lead into the second quarter and kept pace with the only unbeaten team in Group C until a 22-7 run leading into intermission finally gave the Americans some semblance of a cushion.

‎Ukraine beat the Turks earlier in pool play and was executing at an even higher level against Team USA for 10 minutes until the inevitable gulf in talent and depth enabled Krzyzewski and Co. to pull away. And Ukraine (2-3) cruelly missed qualification for the next round by what Fratello said was just a single point, thanks to the disappointing losses it suffered to weaker foes in the group: Dominican Republic and New Zealand.

James Harden had his best offensive showing of the tournament with a team-high 17 points in 24 minutes despite missing all three of his 3-point attempts. Five other Americans scored in double figures: Steph Curry (14), Anthony Davis (12), DeMarcus Cousins (11), Kyrie Irving (11) and Kenneth Faried (10).

The only real scare that the Americans ultimately endured was the hard fall Irving suffered late in the fourth quarter on a drive, when he appeared to lose his footing on a slick spot under the basket. Irving eventually rose and walked over to the bench to check out of the game under his own power, then vowed he'll be fine for Saturday's round-of-16 game in Barcelona.

As a group, meanwhile, Team USA moves on at 5-0, with an average victory margin of 33.2 points.

The Streak: Make it 59 wins in a row and counting for Team USA under Mike Krzyzewski; 41 straight in Olympic and FIBA events and another 18 in friendlies. The Americans haven't tasted defeat since the semifinals of the 2006 FIBA World Championship in Japan against Greece and launched this streak on Sept. 2, 2006, with a 96-81 triumph over Argentina in the bronze-medal game.

Play of the Game: California-born Pooh Jeter finding a cutting Slava Kravstov with a crisply zipped pass in the third quarter for a fast-break dunk to get Fratello excitedly hopping out of his seat on the Ukraine bench . . . followed roughly 75 seconds later by Kravstov authoritatively rejecting Harden's layup inside.

Why highlight those guys?

Just wanted to make sure that Kravstov and Jeter, Ukraine's naturalized American point guard, got the mentions they deserved as the losing team's marquee representatives on the court under Fratello.

Kravstov, in particular, made you notice him with a rugged 15 points to lead Ukraine. The same Kravstov, yes, who scored a total of 97 points in 45 games over the past two seasons with Detroit and Phoenix in the NBA before the Suns waived him in March.

Numbers Game: The Americans lead the tournament in points per game (102.2 PPG) despite not placing any of their players among the tournament's top 10 scorers.

Anthony Davis began play Thursday as the 11th-most prolific scorer in the event at 16.8 points per game before his average dipped slightly with Ukraine holding him to 12.

For the first time in this test of five games in six nights, Derrick Rose logged more minutes in Thursday's win over Ukraine than he did in the previous outing.

His minutes steadily declined through the first four games of pool play, from 23 minutes in the Group C opener against Finland to 17 each in wins over Turkey and New Zealand and then just 13 minutes in Wednesday's win over the Dominican Republic.

But Rose played 10 minutes in the first half alone in the finale of this three games-in-three nights set, saying of his knees before tipoff‎ in an interview with ESPN's Bob Holtzman: "They're good. Just trying to put my knees behind me. I know the question is always gonna come up, but ... I'm feeling fine."

"Pushing the ball, play defense and no turnovers," Rose continued. "That's what I'm trying to do when I'm out there."

Rose is still struggling with his shot -- missing 6 of 8 attempts to remain below 30 percent from the floor for the tournament ‎-- and settled for 4 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists in 18 minutes.

Team USA entered Thursday's play leading the 24-team tournament in six statistical categories: scoring offense, scoring margin, field goal percentage, assists, steals and turnover margin.

Team USA reached 100 points only twice in its five games in pool play, with narrow misses -- 98 points in both instances -- against Turkey and New Zealand before managing just 95 points against Fratello's team.

In 49 competitive games under Krzyzewski in either Olympic or FIBA competition, Team USA has cracked triple digits 30 times and sports a record of 48-1 in those games.

Team USA's Winning Margins

How competitive have Team USA's games been under Mike Krzyzewski?

What's Next: Thanks to a 5:30 p.m. local tipoff time, Team USA headed right to the airport after Thursday's win to fly to Barcelona for the single-elimination phase of the tournament.

Not having Thursday's late game in Group C means that the Americans will have the opportunity to settle quickly at their next stop and get in a full-scale practice Friday before the one-and-done games start.

Team USA's round-of-16 opponent will be Mexico, who was a surprise champion of the FIBA Americas tournament last summer in Venezuela. USA Basketball didn't have to field a team in that tournament after winning gold at the London Olympics in 2012.

Mexico secured fourth place and the final spot in the next round out of Group D with a victory Thursday over South Korea to finish 2-3 in pool play. The Mexicans also managed an impressive 24-point win over Angola and are led by center Gustavo Ayon, who is trying to secure a new contract in the NBA on the strength of his success here.