If Coach K's traditional insistence of respecting every opponent by playing as hard as possible didn't sink in, it probably did after the first quarter against Tunisia on Tuesday.
Before the game, in the huddle, the Tunisian coach got fairly serious with a player who wasn't making eye contact: he gave him a pretty significant slap in the face.
Message received: for Tunisia, it was the chance of a lifetime, and while the Americans blew them out in the second half, Tunisia was highly credible in the first. Makrem Ben Romdhane had 22 points against the powerful U.S. squad, a performance which may earn him a look at some higher levels.
Kobe Bryant played just nine minutes, which he probably hasn't done in a while, and scored just four points. LeBron James scored just five in 19 minutes.
Kevin Love and Carmelo Anthony led the way with 16 each.
Anthony Davis got in earlier than he has so far - in the third quarter - and shot 5-5 from the floor. Kevin Durant chipped in 13 points and 10 boards.
The U.S. held Tunisia to 35.4% from the floor and forced 19 turnovers.
While it was ultimately a bridge too far for the opponents, we're guessing that Coach K would like to avoid any more slow starts: better to slay your rival as quickly as possible. On the other hand, though, we've watched him long enough to know that there is a rhythm to how he gets a team ready. This is a very compressed season, if you will, but there's time in the exhibition games and probably through Thursday's game with Nigeria, to tinker and try things.
The U.S. takes on Nigeria on Thursday at 5:15pm EDT, and Lithuania looms on Saturday.
In the other games Tuesday, Russia broke China 73-54, Spain shot down Australia, 82-70, Lithuania got their revenge on Nigeria, 72-53, and Great Britain gave Brazil a surprisingly close game before bowing 67-62.
Luol Deng scored 12 for the Brits; Marty Pocius got four for the Lithuanians.