MONTE CARLO, Monaco -- Sixteen days without a game figured to produce a Grade A horror show, even for the Dream Team, whose 111-71 triumph over the French National Team last night was an artistic mess.
No offense to the feisty French, but under any normal circumstances, do you really think it would have taken Team USA 5 1/2 minutes just to get a scroungy, scruffy little one-point lead? Sure.
Well, it did. Not until Michael Jordan took a feed from Larry Bird and stuck in an acrobatic three-point play on the baseline did the Americans forge ahead of the French National Team by an 11-10 score. And even that wasn't enough to put the upstart French in their place. The final lead change took place at 17-16. That came on a Jordan fastbreak stop-and-pop jumper, and it came in the midst of a 16-0 run that irrevocably turned the game in the USA direction.
Bird started, along with Karl Malone, Jordan, Magic Johnson and Patrick Ewing. Bird contributed three turnovers to the proceedings in the first three minutes ("I was making horrible decisions"). His only basket was a second-half layup. But the numbers didn't matter to him. Being there was all that mattered.
"I felt good," he reported. "I was just taking it easy. I probably played more than [therapist Dan] Dyrek would have liked [16 minutes], but I came out of it all right. There's still a little pain in the back, but none in the leg, and that's the important thing."
Aside from Jordan (21), the starting unit was sloppy and ugly. The second unit put some life in the game. Charles Barkley (21) executed a couple of those 5 o'clock special end-to-end drives, and the appreciative fans at Stade Louis II loved his thunderous conclusions. Dunks were very big here, and Team USA gave the gathering of 2,500 no fewer than 18 to savor.
Coach Chuck Daly knew what to expect. "We've been off two weeks," he said. "We just needed to get a game in."
Added assistant coach Lenny Wilkens, "It just shows that even great players like these can have problems when they've been off this long."
But don't forget they won by 40.