USA Basketball Game 1: USA 101 – China 70

The first Olympic game of the so-called “Redeem Team” (it is a cheezy nickname, but I have to say, I don’t think it is half-bad) ended up as a success, as the United States really blitzed China on defense and on the fast break to get a series of spectacular dunks that really got the crowd excited (it is a bit weird to see a Chinese crowd go ballistic seeing Americans dunk on Chinese players, but whatever floats their boat).

It was a fun game to watch, but there are definitely some worrisome aspects of USA’s game (or as worrisome as a 30 point blowout can be)…

First off, the three-point shooting by the starters has got to improve. A measly two out of twelve by the starters. Luckily, the bench was 5 for 12 for a not so pathetic overall 7 for 24 (they missed 15 of their first 16 – Michael Redd, you are needed!), but when they face a team that is hot from three, they could be in trouble, so they really need to be more consistent from beyond the arc.

The defense was impressive, as Coach K has used his surplus of guards to great effect by having them press on made free throws, figuring if they tire, he only has a gazillion other All-Star guards on his bench to go to to fill-in. Of course, that makes free-throw shooting pretty important.

What else?

Lebron looked amazing (except for the shooting, of course).

The refs were terrible.

The Lakers’ second-rounder this year, Sun Yue, looked pretty good. I saw one reporter call him Toni Kukoc-like, and I think that’s a good comp.

In any event, a thirty-one point win is a great start for the United States, I’d say.

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29 thoughts to “USA Basketball Game 1: USA 101 – China 70”

  1. freelancing for NBC (actually USA), I wrote the copy for the preview of this game that ran this morning at halftime of the Spain/Greece and Lithuania/Argentina games. whoo!

    did you guys see the end of Lithuania/Argentina? Kleiza busted a 3 to break a 75 all tie at the end after Argentina had come back from way down, ice water in his veins, good, hardfought game even if the offenses took a while to start clicking.

  2. As a one who carries quite a bit of Lithuanian blood, I am quite proud of their start to what appears to be a promising run–far prouder of them than I am of this batch of Americans, my countrymen. While there’s nothing that makes this particular bunch of Americans unlikable–Steph isn’t there this time around–I find it terribly hard to root for them at all, and frankly, I would be ecstatic to see them finish outside the medals.

    After seeing Rubio play, all I can say is that it did not justify the hype.

    Here’s to the US bombing out and the Lithuanians taking the gold.

  3. I haven’t looked at the box score yet, but it seemed that the USA had the turnover edge. China looked real thin at guard – the two handed LeBron blocked shot punctuated that fact. Having the guards press was a good use of this advantage.

    The three point disparity kept China in the game in the first half. I recall watching the game thinking “Oh we’re killing them” and all of a sudden the score would be tied after a China three. That’s something to be really worried about for team USA in the future.

  4. it just seemed like the same ol’ same ol’ – give the ball to the wing, he dribbles into the lane, everyone converges, then he dishes out for a three. we run the same offensive attack for both man and zone, completely relying on our player’s overwhelming athletic advantages to open up opportunities for others.

    i just don’t see it working against spain, a team that’s at least in the same ballpark athletically.

    i’m just disappointed that after three years of preparation and countless sound bytes that we’ve adapted to the international game, we still go 1-on-5 in an NBA-style attack, and we don’t use an offensive system that will produce shots. no backdoors. no pick-and-rolls. no movement. just pure reliance on athletic superiority.

    i thought we came to the realization that that works in the nba, not so much internationally.

    but the defense does look great.

  5. Say the U.S. plays and loses now against Greece and Spain right? What happens? Nothing, they still win the Gold and just suddenly become spun into the “perseverance team” which overcame and succeeded…

    I get what you’re saying, Nik, but I dunno – if they lose to Greece and Spain, what makes you think they will still be able to win the Gold?

  6. I don’t know…I actually believe this team will win it all. Spain will definitely test that, but I see something different about this team.

    A) This is the best defensive team the US has ever brought to the Olympics. By far. These guys can lock down anyone in a 1 on 1 situation and their ability to press full court is scary. In fact, I would almost prefer they trap less and stick with the man to man. Most of the open looks they gave up were because somebody went to double a player on the perimeter.

    B) I think people are making too much out of the fact that it took them 1.5 quarters to take over the game. That’s how it’s supposed to work. They have by far the most depth of any team in the games, and that depth begins to show midway through the 2nd when they can still turn up the D. The biggest advantage they have is that their 2nd line is far better than anyone else’s. That advantage looms larger the deeper they get into the game.

    Honestly, I like this team. They played the game with respect yesterday.

    And I beg to differ on the offense — I saw a lot of ball movement for them in the game against China. Not as much ball movement as you see from teams like Spain and Greece, but a lot more than you ever see in the NBA. For the most part they were getting open looks all game long, they just kept missing them. That is the only thing that troubles me.

  7. All you need to move to the quarterfinal stage is 2 wins. The U.S. beat China and will obviously beat Angola, so it has a guaranteed spot in the last 8. That means it can afford to lose to Spain, Greece and Germany and still win gold by stringing together 3 good games afterward against whoever they play, and what a picture perfect scenario for the media that would be. Plus if Spain or Greece beat the U.S. in the group stage I have a feeling that there is no way they’ll be able to repeat that success, the U.S. simply would not allow it and Spain/Greece would be under too much pressure.

    Right, I get your point about how relatively easy it is for them to advance, but I am just debating whether a team that would beat the US once would not be able to beat them twice.

    Meanwhile, if the US wins the first time around, who’s to say the opposite won’t hold true?

  8. This edition of the US team is a LOT better than the last two. But I think they can still get beat. The international games seems to be a lot like the college game. If the other team gets hot from three, anything can happen.

  9. Also, Chris Paul should play 32 minutes per game at least, and Chris Bosh should get a lot more minutes than Melo.

  10. Can’t really say you’re wrong — undoubtedly a team with better ball handling skills won’t cough it up like China did during a couple of big US runs. However, the idea behind pressure D like that isn’t really to get steals (that’s a nice bonus), it’s to shrink the shot clock in a half court offense. If you make them eat 8-10 getting the ball up court you have reduced their ability to get wide open looks by making six or seven passes in the half court.

    Bottom line is we won’t know how good this team is until they actually have to play a real opponent in game 3. There’s no question they’re going to wallop the bad teams with sheer athleticism. We’ll know what they really have on Thursday. And Saturday will be the real test.

  11. The international games seems to be a lot like the college game. If the other team gets hot from three, anything can happen.

    I think this is more a function of the “one and done” format (and the shorter game). If it were a best of 7, none of these teams would have any chance of beating the U.S., but in a single-game they might pull the upset. IMO the U.S. was the best team at the Worlds, would have beat Greece 8 or 9 out of 10, but the Greeks played their one perfect game at the right time.

    I’d worry most about the refs. These international zebras seem pretty shaky, and if you get one who’s whistle-happy, that pressure defense won’t be so effective. If they get bogged down in a half-court game, they lose some of the advantage.

    I’m not an international guru but I get the feeling most teams don’t show the full playbook in the opening round (or the warm-up tourneys). They wait until the Round of 8 to start using their wrinkles; maybe the offense we’ve seen so far is not what Mike K and Mike D will emphasize next week.

  12. i hope that’s the case, that we’re not showing our full hand offensively. we can get away with it against china and angola, even when we’re not hitting the three (which we will). it’s just that when i see spain and greece and argentina play, the system gives them opportunities. i see players making opportunities with our sets.

    coach k is smart. hopefully we’re just playing possum.

    and the defense is suffocating – even when china was shooting out of their minds. that’s not our fault.

  13. “even when we’re not hitting the three (which we will)”

    You know, we haven’t brought any really great shooters to the party. I don’t think anyone other than Deron Williams is in the top 50 in the NBA in 3 pt percentage….

  14. Wow, Michael Redd dropped that far down recently?

    Was it just from shooting too much?

  15. Kobe has to stop jacking up 3s. Redd will be fine as our zone buster. He has been lights out during the exhibitions and shot 3 of 7 from 3 against China.

    I would be more concern with someone named Carmelo Anthony who looked like he shouldn’t be on the court.

  16. Carmelo doesn’t get a lot of love on this board.

    He’s still a youngster with plenty of upside — if Denver ever wanted to move him, I wouldn’t puke seeing him in a Knick uni…

  17. They play Spain the fifteenth. The play Angola today, and Greece the 13th I think.

    And needless to say, I don’t want Carmelo on the Knicks.

  18. Was that the ’92 team? I remember someone asking Barkley to preview the game. He said something like, “I don’t know anything about Angola, but I know they’re in trouble.”

  19. You’ll find Charles’ Angola quote about halfway down….

    More Charles Barkley Quotes: I don’t care what people think. People are stupid. – Charles Barkley

    “I know I’m never as good or bad as one single performance. I’ve never believed in my critics or my worshippers, and I’ve always been able to leave the game at the arena.”

    “I love New York City; I’ve got a gun.”

    “I think that the team that wins game five will win the series. Unless we lose game five.”

    “If I weren’t earning $3 million a year to dunk a basketball, most people on the street would run in the other direction if they saw me coming.”

    “Kids are great. That’s one of the best things about our business, all the kids you get to meet. It’s a shame they have to grow up to be regular people and come to the games and call you names.”

    Barkley on a scuffle between Juwan Howard and Wally Szczerbiak: “Both of them are nice guys, but neither one of them can crush a grape between them.”

    “You mean to tell me they’re holding our plane and soildiers hostage, and we’re giving this Chinese guy a three year contract”

    After Wang ZhiZhi has a shot blocked: “He’s got to bring something stronger than that. That’s like bringing milk to a bar, it’s not strong enough”

    “My family got all over me because they said Bush is only for the rich people. Then I reminded them, ‘Hey, I’m rich’.”

    “I heard Tonya Harding is calling herself the Charles Barkley of figure skating. I was going to sue her for defamation of character, but then I realized I have no character.”

    “Somebody hits me, I’m going to hit him back. Even if it does look like he hasn’t eaten in a while.”

    “The only difference between a good shot and a bad shot is if it goes in or not.”

    To a fan in the FleetCenter in Boston: “You guys are two players away from being good again — Bill Russell and Larry Bird.”

    Before the Dream Team’s game against Angola in the 1992 Olympics: “All I know about Angola is they in trouble.”

    “Hey Stanley, you could be a great player if you learned just two words: I’m full.” — Barkley yelling to 300-plus-pound Houston Rockets teammate Stanley Roberts

    On what it means having Rick Mahorn as a teammate: “All it means is that people will say that I don’t have the biggest butt in the league anymore.”

    On why he endorses Nike, even though its shoes sell for more than $100: “Hey, they don’t stop selling Mercedes Benzes just because some people can’t afford them, do they?”

    Barkley in response to Charles Oakley saying that 60 percent of NBA players smoke pot: “What percentage of reporters who cover the NBA smoke pot? My poll is just as scientific as his poll. I am going to say 60 percent of writers smoke pot. I just came up with a number. You don’t have to have any facts…you can just throw things out there. I like that.”

    Charles Barkley Profile

    Name: Charles Wade Barkley
    Postion: Power Forward
    Nickname: The Round Mound of Rebound, Sir Charles
    Born: 02/20/1963
    Status: Retired as player; active as TNT Announcer; Inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall-Of-Fame on September 09, 2006
    Origin: Leeds, Alabama, Usa
    Height: 6-6/1,98m
    Weight: 255lbs./116,4
    Schools: Auburn University
    Drafted: 1984, First Round, by the Philadelphia 76ers
    Languages: English
    Website: InterBasket
    Teams (Jersey): Auburn Tigers, US National Team (1992’s Dream Team and 1996), Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns
    IBN Facts: Sitting in the TNT studio and letting fly whatever comes to mind, one almost forgets that Charles Barkley was once a monster on the court. Standing barely 6-5 and the physique of an out-of-work football player, Barkley ran the court with surprising ease, grabbed rebounds from taller and more athletic players and dunked the ball when you least expected it.

    Charles Barkley Quotes:
    These are my new shoes. They’re good shoes. They won’t make you rich like me, they won’t make you rebound like me, they definitely won’t make you handsome like me. They’ll only make you have shoes like me. That’s it. – Charles Barkley

    You know it’s going to hell when the best rapper out there is white and the best golfer is black.

    “They run like deer, jump like deer and think like deer.” – Charles Barkley on the Portland Trail Blazers.

    On the All-Star Game: “Hell, there ain’t but 15 black millionaires in the whole country & half of ’em are right here in this room.”

    On the news that the NBA would allow zone defenses: “This is a great day for bad NBA players”

    “Dennis (Rodman) likes wearing a dress, I don’t like wearing a dress. I tried it on a couple of times in the house, but I do it privately; I don’t do it publicly.”

    “Just because I can dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.”

    On throwing an elbow at an Angolan: “Well, he might have pulled a spear on me.”

    On why he didn’t attend a presidential inauguration: “They’re not my type. I like to be around low-class people, like reporters.”

    On his retirement: “Just what America needs–another unemployed black man.”

    When asked about his grades at Auburn, he said, “As long as I was leading the SEC in rebounding, my grades would be fine.”

    His greeting to new Rocket Elmer Bennett: “Elmer? I ain’t never met a brother named Elmer. I can’t believe that. A brother named Elmer. I have been alive 33 years, and I ain’t never met a brother named Elmer. I’ve heard of Elmer Fudd, but that’s it. They named a fella Elmer.”

    “That’s a lot of damn money. And a black man is making it. What a great country. Imagine if he could play.” — Barkley on Kevin Garnett’s $125 million deal

    “As long as Bird is around I will only be the second-worst defensive player in basketball.”

  20. Anything can happen in a single game… but anyone who thinks the U.S. isn’t head and shoulders above the other teams in Beijing, look what happened today — Spain needed overtime to beat China.

  21. Well, as you say Caleb, “anything can happen in a single game.” That could have been Spain’s “single game.” However, I feel that the competition is rather weak this year as Bangladesh failed to field a team. Damn shame, they could’ve been contenders.

  22. Man, Barkley is classic, those are great quotes…..

    No disagreement, the US has way the best team. But they could still lose. And they had to bring their best players to be the favorites. If they brought a team like the 2004 edition, they would be lucky to medal. Which means things have come a long way.

  23. No doubt, international ball is strong and the U.S. COULD lose. Just giving a reality check — IMO the discussion of tactics has beenoverblown; basketball isn’t really that complicated.

    For the same reason, D’Antoni may be a great coach who will help the Knicks play better but it’s not enough to make them even an average team without serious personnel changes.

  24. p.s. I think my favorite quote is the “run like deer, jump like deer, think like deer…” That should be recycled, some time.

  25. “basketball isn’t really that complicated. ”

    the different rules in international ball make it a bit more complicated for the US team. if they played by NBA rules, I don’t think anyone would come within 30 points of them.

  26. That Garnett quote in particular is a beauty. With player evaluation skills like that, it’s amazing no one has offered him a GM job.

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