What the U.S. team learned from the NBA title-winning San Antonio Spurs

Martin Rogers

SAO PAULO - Jermaine Jones believes the United States must draw inspiration from the San Antonio Spurs' victory in the NBA Finals when it takes on Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal on Sunday.

Much of Portugal's gameplan and success revolves around Ronaldo, the best player on the planet over the past European season and the reigning World Footballer of the Year.

But U.S. midfielder Jones insisted the example of the Spurs, whose collective mentality shut down the LeBron James-led Miami Heat in five games, was a valuable lesson that the Americans could take encouragement from.

"The NBA Finals showed how it works," Jones said. "Spurs were the better team and this is why they won the championship. I always say when we talk that the team is more important than two or three key players.

"So if you stick together like a team and fight like a team, whether you are going forwards or backwards, then you will win the game."

Several members of the U.S. squad watched most of the NBA Finals, which was broadcast on Brazilian television, in their Sao Paulo hotel last week. If they can do as good a job of stifling Ronaldo as the Spurs did of controlling James, it will definitely bode well for them.

Ronaldo has been battling injury but it would take something drastic to keep him out of such a vital game for his country. Portugal is fighting for its World Cup survival, having been thrashed 4-0 by Germany in its opener on Monday.

However, Jones was adamant that focusing too heavily on Ronaldo, despite his prowess, would be a mistake for Jurgen Klinsmann's team.

[Related: Jozy Altidore officially ruled out for Portugal game]

"We have a lot of respect for Cristiano Ronaldo and he is a great player," Jones said. "But you have to have respect for the whole team of Portugal. He is the key player but they have a lot of good players. We don't make it so much crazy about Cristiano, we try to play our own game.

"If we pull together like we did against Ghana then we have a chance to win the game. I try not to look at what happens with other teams and their injuries or things like this."

Winning its first game against Ghana was a huge boost for the Americans, with the team sitting in second place in Group G, behind Germany on goal differential and three points clear of Portugal and Ghana.

A victory would likely guarantee a place in the round of 16, while a draw would leave the U.S. in a solid position heading into the third and last group game.

"We go in with a win, Portugal goes in with a loss," Jones added. "So the pressure is on Portugal."

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