Billups helps US beat France in lone home exhibition game before world championships

Even the old guy found something new in the young Americans' debut.

"First time I've been in the Garden and the people have been cheering for me," Chauncey Billups said.

Billups scored 17 points, nine in an early third-quarter flurry that broke open the game, and the United States beat France 86-55 on Sunday in its only home exhibition before the world championships.

Rudy Gay had 19 points to lead the Americans, who started slowly in their first tuneup before running away from the French in the second half. Billups, one of the few players on the roster with international experience, made three 3-pointers while playing just 15 minutes.

The 33-year-old Billups, who played for the U.S. in the 2007 Olympic qualifier, expected some nerves from a roster that includes five 21-year-olds.

"Now you're really playing a real game," he said. "You're on TV and it doesn't mean that much but internally it does because we're trying to work toward something."

Kevin Durant added 14 points and eight rebounds for the Americans, who open the world championships on Aug. 28 against Croatia.

Boris Diaw scored 15 points for France, which surrendered a 16-4 run early in the third quarter after staying close with the Americans in the first half.

"The second half I just thought we just settled down," U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "You don't have to be perfect. Every shot you take doesn't have to go in."

The Americans trimmed their roster to 13 earlier Sunday when they cut Jeff Green and JaVale McGee. They final cut will come sometime in Europe, perhaps not until they have completed their exhibition schedule.

They leave Monday for Madrid, where the schedule gets tougher. They face Lithuania and defending world champion Spain while there, then travel to Athens for a game against Greece.

"We left off on a good note," guard Derrick Rose said.

The opener of a doubleheader at Madison Square Garden was the first international game for much of the U.S. roster. The Americans will send a young team to Turkey after all 12 players from the 2008 Olympic gold medalists decided to take the summer off.

"A lot of the big name guys are not here, so people are kind of counting us out," Durant said. "So we definitely have something to prove and tonight was a good start."

That has left an athletic squad that features Tyson Chandler as the only center. He played with Billups on the team three years ago, but most of the team is much younger.

"It is a young team," Diaw said. "Chauncey Billups is the daddy of the team but everyone else is pretty young."

France was down only seven after getting the opening basket of the second half before Billups' 3-pointer gave the Americans their first double-digit lead. After a basket by Chandler, Billups made another 3 for a 47-34 advantage with 7:46 left in the third.

Consecutive three-point plays by Billups and Durant pushed it to 55-36 with 5:05 to go in the period. The lead ballooned to 70-46 early in the fourth after two straight powerful dunks by Gay.

"I've been looking forward to this for a long time," Gay said. "It's our last time playing on U.S. soil."

France is also short-handed this summer. Its best player, Tony Parker, sat courtside along with wife Eva Longoria Parker and another French player, new Knicks forward Ronny Turiaf. Joakim Noah, also sitting out, also attended the game.

The French still have NBA players such as Diaw and Nicolas Batum, who scored 11.

Krzyzewski went with Billups, Durant, Rajon Rondo and Andre Iguodala to start the game. Kevin Love, who missed a day of practice this week with a calf injury, and Russell Westbrook didn't play until the fourth quarter.

The game was tied at 16 after a first quarter in which the Americans shot only 37.5 percent and committed five turnovers. Durant missed his first five shots but finally got a pair of dunks midway through the second period. Rondo had the last two U.S. baskets of the half, extending the lead to 39-30 at the break.

China played Puerto Rico in the second game.