Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Team USA Group Play Analysis

     Five teams. Five victories. That's what Team USA has done in its group play schedule. They've faced some proven teams in France and Argentina, some lesser teams in Tunisia and Nigeria, and an upstart team in Lithuania. Let's review how they did in each game and what to expect when they face Australia.

Team USA vs. France

Result: 98-71 victory for Team USA.

Kevin Durant and Team USA were able to hold off Nicolas
Batum and France to start off London 2012 on a good note.
Team USA Analysis: After the game, Nicolas Batum said Team USA can be beat. Having several other NBA players on your team, including 2007 NBA Finals MVP Tony Parker, and still losing by 27 doesn't really help your case. Sorry, Nicolas. You were almost right though, but we'll get to that later. Team USA started sluggish, and led by only one point at the end of the first. After that, however, they turned up their production. At the half, they led by 16 points, simply forgetting their struggles in the first quarter. Team USA kept rolling, and eventually defeated France by 27 points. They played well later on in the game against a team that is able enough to compete for the bronze medal. It was not too shabby of a win to open Olympic play.

Grade for Team USA: B+

Team USA vs. Tunisia

Result: 110-63 victory for Team USA.

Team USA Analysis: Was this the day Tunisia would triumph and stun Team USA? In a one-word answer, no. Tunisia had not one player with NBA experience on their roster, and the lack of skill proved costly. Tunisia had given Team USA a run for their undefeated streak, but came up short. Led by Makram Ben Romdhane, Tunisia was leading at one point in the first quarter and competed with much heart through the first half. After that, Team USA showed why they were the best team in the world and dominated. They started to shoot better and play more as a unit. The bench was the ultimate key, as they scored 84 points in total and was the true difference in the game. Besides Kevin Durant's double-double, the starters struggled. It was not a great game by Team USA in any sort. The team broke away in the second half, but they did not walk over Tunisia like many had expected. However, Team USA would bounce back to exude their true dominance in the third game of pool play.

Grade for Team USA: B

Team USA vs. Nigeria

Result: 156-73 victory for Team USA.

Team USA Analysis: This was probably the best game any Team USA had ever played. Nigeria was totally outmatched in every category, and Team USA held an offensive onslaught against the Nigerians. Ike Diogu and Al-Farouq Aminu, two players with NBA experience, could not lead their team adequately against the Americans. Team USA broke all sorts of records, and Carmelo Anthony had a game for the ages. He scored 37 points and sunk ten three-pointers. Every single thing went right for Team USA, and finally, the team was clicking on all cylinders. But that wouldn't last for long..

Grade for Team USA: A+

LeBron James played stellar in the fourth quarter to help the
United States avoid being upset by Lithuania.
Team USA vs. Lithuania

Result: 99-94 victory for Team USA

Team USA Analysis: Just when we thought everything was going right for the Americans, and that the Olympics would be a piece of cake for Team USA, we were very, very wrong. Lithuania basically brought every Team USA member and fan back down to Earth, and almost stunned everybody by holding their own in what would have been one of the biggest upsets of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Lithuania played tough and executed on offense. They exposed Team USA's lack of a post presence and continued to drive to the basket at sheer will. This is the toughest opponent Team USA has played at the Olympics so far, and they better hope they won't have to face Lithuania in any sort of medal game. Without LeBron James coming alive and scoring nine points in the closing minutes of the game, Team USA would have probably lost their third game in its history of pool play. They shot a horrid 30% from three-point range and missed 12 out of 31 free throws. It's absolutely inexcusable that a team comprised of All Stars had a showing as bad as they did against Lithuania. If they play like this against a team with a bit more talent like Russia, Brazil, or Spain, the Americans might not get so lucky at the end.

Grade for Team USA: D

Team USA vs. Argentina

Result: 126-97 victory for Team USA.

Team USA Analysis: After a rough game against Lithuania, Team USA had to come back out strong against Argentina. Led by Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola and Carlos Delfino, Argentina certainly had the pedigree and skill to compete and potentially upset Team USA. However, Team USA broke the game open in the second half and was able to handle the Argentinians. Things got a little chippy when Argentina point guard Facundo Campazzo hit Carmelo Anthony in "the spot where the sun doesn't shine." Campazzo was angry because the referees hadn't called a foul on Chris Paul when he hit Campazzo in the stomach and knocked the wind out of him. Campazzo retaliated with force, but the Americans retaliated where it really counts, on the scoreboard. Argentina rested starting point guard Pablo Prigioni and Manu Ginobili sat out the entire second half. Although it looked like Argentina threw the game away in the second half and was more focused on the medal rounds, Team USA still played well and racked up another quality win.

Grade for Team USA: B+

Will Team USA be able to bring home the gold again?

Overall Team USA Preliminary Round Analysis

Team USA has gotten shot-happy at times, and the lack of a post presence has really started to show its ill effects in the last two games for the Americans. Team USA certainly has the talent to win the gold, but they must use their speed to attack the rim and finish in the lane. If they can do that, they will create more open shots for deadly perimeter shooters like Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Kevin Love. Team USA has shown their true power and biggest weaknesses in this year's pool play, but I expect head coach Mike Krzyzewski to have this team prepared for the medal rounds and lead them to yet another gold medal. Their first game of the medal rounds is, as I previously mentioned, against Australia. Here's my prediction for the game:

Team USA vs. Australia

Overview: Australia is coming off an astonishing victory over Russia and is in full swing right now. They have some decent talent but without Andrew Bogut, they are missing a big post presence. Their situation is somewhat similar to Team USA not having Dwight Howard. Team USA ended pool play at 5-0 (they are the only undefeated team) and has its eyes set toward another gold medal. Can the Aussies create some havoc and beat the Americans?

Can Mills be the hero once
again against Team USA?

X-Factor: Patrick Mills. Some NBA fans might know the name, some might not. If you don't, Mills is a guard on the San Antonio Spurs. He was originally drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers but did not see much playing time there, and was picked up by the Spurs after tours in China and Australia. He showed flashes of brilliance in a game against the Warriors last season, in which he scored 34 points and dished out 12 assists. However, his true brilliance has shown in the London Olympics. Mills complied a Herculean 39 points in a pool play match against Great Britain. In the next and final game of pool play, Mills hit the game-winning three to overcome previously undefeated Russia and secure a spot for the Aussies in the medal rounds. Mills is the leader of this year's Australia team, and his courageousness during the Olympic games is hard to match on the basketball court. If Team USA can shut Mills down, they should be able to handle Australia.

Prediction: 104-81 victory for Team USA.

     Team USA has provided some exciting and also troubling moments for its universal fan base. They have faced some tough brushes with international foes, but have overcome them so far to cruise into the medal rounds at 5-0. Will they be able to keep their undefeated streak alive against Australia? The game will be nationally broadcast live on August 8th at 5:15 ET. Stay tuned for more Team USA coverage here on The Ski Report.

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