BILBAO, Spain -- Some at-the-buzzer instant analysis from press row at the Bilbao Exhibition Center after Team USA's 106-71 victory here Wednesday night over the Dominican Republic in Group C:
How It Happened: It took a quarter to get going, but the Americans eventually brushed aside the Francisco Garcia-less Dominicans in the expected rout at the FIBA Basketball World Cup that featured a new contributor to the offense: Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins (13 points).
Garcia entered Wednesday's play as the tournament's fifth-leading scorer with 21.0 points per game, but he tweaked an ankle late in Tuesday's victory over Finland and was forced to watch the game from the bench in Dominican Republic sweats that were clearly different from the game models worn by all of his active teammates, signaling to everyone in the building that he wouldn't be playing.
Yet it was an understandable decision from coach Orlando Antigua, given that the Dominican Republic came into the game with a surprising 2-1 record after wins over New Zealand and Finland, and can advance to the knockout portion of the tournament with a victory Thursday over up-and-down Turkey.
A flat Team USA start and five missed free throws in the first quarter enabled the Dominicans to hang around even without their leading scorer as well as their undisputed best player; Atlanta Hawks big man Al Horford had to pass on the trip to Spain as he continues to recover from two straight seasons interrupted by pectoral injuries.
"We kind of came out lackadaisical," Cousins said in a halftime interview with ESPN's Bob Holtzman. "We kind of gave this team life."
But Team USA's 25-22 lead after a period was a 15-point cushion by halftime and predictably ballooned from there.
The Streak: That's two wins over the Dominican Republic in the space of two weeks, and 58 consecutive wins and counting for Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski. This was the 40th straight win for Team USA in Olympic and FIBA competitions, to go with another 18 in friendlies, including that 41-point pounding of the Dominicans at Madison Square Garden on Aug. 20. The Americans haven't lost a game of any kind under Krzyzewski since the 2006 FIBA world championship in Japan against Greece, starting this streak on Sept. 2, 2006, with a 96-81 triumph over Argentina in the bronze-medal game.
Play Of The Game: Early in the second quarter, Derrick Rose took a feed from Rudy Gay on the fast break and was forced to settle for a layup when he appeared to try to gather himself for a more forceful leap but couldn't quite find the needed lift.
It was the sort of play that would typically sound the alarms back in Chicago among Bulls fans. But Rose, about 30 seconds later, didn't hesitate to go after a too-high lob pass on a potential alley-oop. That was a reassuring sign as Rose continues his comeback from the twin knee injuries that limited him to 10 games with the Bulls in the past two seasons.
Rose seemed to be enjoying himself on the bench after those two plays, and he logged his usual second-half playing time as well, finishing with six points and three assists in 13 minutes.
In a brief postgame visit with Holtzman, Rose explained that he merely slipped on the layup after catching Gay's pass, saying: "I'm good."
As ESPN.com reported Tuesday, Team USA's plan is to play Rose on Thursday as well to allow him to complete a back-to-back-to-back set and appear in all five of the Americans' games in the first six nights of the competition.
PS -- Mason Plumlee's over-the-shoulder lob to Andre Drummond on the fast break in garbage time, after an acrobatic save by DeMar DeRozan, sent the Team USA bench into delirium and certainly ranked as the evening's most spectacular play.
The surprise is that Faried actually missed three of his 11 shots, taking his tournament-leading marksmanship from the field below 80 percent. He's now at 78.4 percent from the floor, having converted 29 of 37 shots in four games.
A 22-0 run for the United States that began in the third quarter and carried into the fourth pushed the lead to a whopping 92-52 with 6:07 left. Team USA ultimately fell six points short of its margin of victory from the teams' Aug. 20 meeting.
Seven games into his comeback -- counting the three exhibition games he played in before the World Cup began -- Rose is averaging 5.6 points on 29.4 percent shooting from the field (10-for-34) with 15 assists and 14 turnovers. He has logged 129 minutes in the seven games.
After topping out at 98 points in its victories over Turkey and New Zealand, Team USA cracked triple digits for the second time in the tournament.
What's Next: Team USA closes out Group C play against Ukraine, whose NBA-heavy coaching staff is headed up by Mike Fratello and also features assistants Bob Hill and Joe Wolf.
Recruited to coach the Ukrainians by one of his former players -- Atlanta's 1986 sixth-round pick Alexander Volkov -- Fratello combined with naturalized American point guard Pooh Jeter to lead Ukraine to its first World Cup berth since the dissolution of the Soviet Union and Ukraine's independence nearly a quarter-century ago.
Ukraine's best-known player, besides Jeter, is former Pistons big man Viacheslav Kravtsov, who was waived in March by Phoenix.
Playing amid the distraction of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict back home, Fratello's team notched an impressive 64-58 victory over Turkey on the heels of the Turks' impressive showing against the United States. The problem: Ukraine sandwiched losses to Finland and New Zealand around its best performance, putting itself in danger of failing to advance to the knockout phase of the tournament.
The Americans have already clinched first place in the pool, but Group C's other three spots in the round of 16 remain up for grabs in Thursday's other two group games: Finland (1-3) faces New Zealand (1-3), and Turkey (2-2) meets the Dominican Republic (2-2).