2006 FIBA World Champs--US vs. Puerto Rico Recap
- Well, the US looked alright at best. They did a wonderful job creating turnovers (14 steals) which led to many easy scoring opportunities. They pounded the offensive glass as expected (16 off. rbs--a trend that will continue), which led to an array of second chance possessions. Both of these things came as no surprise. But when it came to half-court situations defensively & offensively, the US did not look all that hot. Which also is not all that surprising, at least to me.
- Team USA's straight-up defense in the half-court left alot to be desired. They were continuely being hurt by dribble penetration & there were some instances of some players losing track of their man. The US did a pretty good job with traps & when they were swarming, but when they set-up in straight-up half-court defense, they were mediocre overall. This was something I noticed in the exhibitions as well. Another thing they need to do better is defend the 3pt. line--P.R. was 10/16 from 3pt. Team USA's got burned in Athens by the opposition's 3pt. shooting, & this is something Coach K needs to address.
- Offensively, I thought they were alright, but nothing special. The US shot 54.2% overall, but shot only 33.3% from 3pt. (54.2% seems high, I would love to know what they shot from about 12 feet & out, because I bet it was not great). I saw alot of missed jumpers vs. the zone, particularly in the 1st half, and quite a few shots that missed badly. Basically, Joe Johnson & Hinrich were the only guys shooting the ball well from outside vs. the zone, besides Melo. Melo was easily the best player on the floor for the US & scored in a variety of ways: spot jumpers, pull-ups, drives, post-ups & transition finishs. Wade missed some jumpers badly, Lebron, & Paul could not hit from deep either. This is very likely to continue, zones just take away some of their effectiveness. This is why I think Dirk is the best player in the tourney--he does not have to alter his game, like Bron & Wade. Though, Paul did have a nice overall game with 11 points, 9 assists, & 5 steals. While Dwight Howard did a solid job with the dirty work inside with 10 pts. & 7 rebs., and basically just imposing his superior physicality. Battier brought the hustle & little things as expected including 6 boards (4 off.) & 3pt. make.
- The US defensive pressure was great at the start of the 3rd & 4th, and this was the deciding factor in the game. Wade, Bron & Paul did not have the touch from outside, but they made up for it by being the focal point of the US pressure defense. These guys were a huge part of the US runs in the early 3rd & 4th quarters.
- From Puerto Rico's viewpoint, Carlos Arroyo was superb & was a tough cover once again for Team USA. Ayuso hit some tough shots to keep P.R. always in striking distance, but was cut short by an injury. The one thing that was hard to understand was their defensive alignment sometimes. In the 1st half, they did a pretty solid job, but were sometimes to stretched out in their zone alignment--usually their wing defender were out too far. The way the US was bricking alot of their shots, Puerto Rico should have been more packed-in. But P.R. ruined any chance of possibly pulling off another upset when they decided to go with a match-up zone at the start of the 3rd. I guess the P.R. coach was feeling a little too confident that his team was only down 6, so he thought he could hang with the US. Bad move. The US scored easily & combined with their pressure, the US changed the momentum of the game.
-Again, going back to my lesser-of-two-evils theory vs. the US: Would you rather man-up the US & have them shred you apart, or would you rather have them prove themselves from the perimeter? It's a no-brainer--pack in the zone, make the US shoot jumpers, if they are hitting jumpers, live with it. I mean when the US had a line-up with Paul, Wade, Anthony, & Bron out there at the start of the 3rd, why are you not in a sagging zone?
- I expect the US to cruise to victory vs. China, even with Yao on the floor this time. I think the US defense will just overwhelm the overmatched China guards into a ton of turnovers.