The defending World and Olympic champion U.S. Men's Basketball team finished its preparation for the London Olympics on home soil with a win against Brazil in Washington D.C. on Monday night. The exhibition game had some special spectators.
The U.S. men's team is filled with National Basketball Association
stars, making it a heavy favorite to win a gold medal at the London Games.
But it did not look that way in the first quarter against a talented Brazil team that features four current NBA players on its roster, as the visitors took a 10-point lead.
The sold-out crowd at the downtown Washington arena included President Obama - a huge basketball fan - and his wife Michelle.
The Americans turned up their defense after the slow start, outscoring Brazil 20-5 in the second quarter and going on to win comfortably, 80-69. Newly-crowned NBA champion LeBron James of the Miami Heat led all scorers with 30 points.
U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski - also known as Coach K - was satisfied with his players' performance against the team that gave the U.S. its toughest game at the World Basketball Championships two years ago, and he knows what it will take in London.
"If we win the gold medal it will be because of how well we play defensively,“ he said.
A day earlier at Team USA's practice at George Washington University, Coach Krzyzewski, Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James said they have no problem being considered favorites in London.
"I am acustomed to that for the last 25 years at Duke [University]," said Krzyzewski. "And I have been accustomed to it for the seven years I have been the USA coach, so we just go on with what we are supposed to do and try to win every game and every posession.“
"You know, we have a responsibility to be professionals and to work every day with a right focus," Bryant explained. "And a right frame of mind, to try to bring back a gold medal, but I don't look at it as pressure or burden.“
"Is it any different? It's no different. They always look at us as the favorite, going to any game, so it's no different,“ James stated.
"I think Brazil has a great chance to be in contention for a gold medal. We are going to play a couple of other teams in exibitions that also will be there - Argentina and Spain, and one team we will not face unless we cross over to them - France, with Tony Parker leading them, and all the NBA players they have, will be really good,“ Krzyzewski added.
Men's basketball at the London Olympics starts on July 29. The gold medal game is on August 12, the same day as the closing ceremony.