Wednesday, August 30, 2006

2006 FIBA Worlds-USA 85, Germany 65

- As ugly as a 20-point victory for the US squad can get. I do not think the final score was quite indicative of how competitive the game was. Obviously, Team USA's defense was a major key to this victory, but I think their work on the offensive boards was just as important. I am not really sure what the US second chance point total was (FIBA does not record them), but from what I saw it must have been significant.

Once again, the US defense was superb. The US was effective just in a straight half-court look, shunning most of their traps & doubling. The ball pressure was suffocating, and Germany was having a hell of time trying to run their offense all game (Hinrich was tremendous as usual) The US was also effective single-teaming Dirk with a platoon of Battier, Lebron, Bosh, & a little Melo. Dirk never really went off offensively. The US also did another good job covering the 3pt. line, by not only holding the Germans to 23%, but by only letting 13 attempts. The entire US team did a good job altering & blocking alot of shots, especially in the 2nd half.

On the other hand, the US offense had probably its worst day of the tourney. They finally played against an adequate zone and they could not find the range from outside. If it was not for their dominance of the offensive glass, this game could have been alot more worrisome then it turned out (E. Brand hauled in 5 off. rbs.).

They built some breathing room at the start of the 3rd with some points off of turnovers & some quick run-outs off of missed baskets. Carmelo was a key to this mini-run with some points in transition and a couple 3pts. thrown in--Melo led the team with 19 pts. Lebron started the game off hot, but sort of tailed off as the game went on & was plagued by 7 TOs--Bron did pitch in 13, 5 rebs. & 4 assts. Chris Bosh has really turned the corner & seems to have supplanted A. Jamison in the regular rotation--he had his 3rd straight strong game in a row (10 & 7 on 4/5). Although, D-Wade was downright awful shooting the ball (I saw at least 2 airballs), he still did a decent job driving the seams in the zone to create shots for his teammates (5 assts & 7 rbs). Joe Johnson was the only US player to provide any kind of threat from outside with 3/7 from 3pt., besides Melo.

The German defense can not be faulted with the outcome of this game, they played as well as they could. Granted, they could have done a little bit better on their defensive glass, but that is a necessary evil of a zone. Germany easily played the best zone that the US faced all tourney. It was not just because the US was missing their jumpers, it was because the Germans were not letting huge lanes in their defense like Slovenia & Australia. I thought they were disciplined all game-- their wings & guards at the top did not venture too far from the paint. It also helps that Germany had two 7-footers to deter alot of shots at the rim.

Another good thing about the German zone--was they rarely let any drives deep into the lane. The US only got to the line 15 times, after averaging 32.3 ft attempts per game so far in the tourney. This is what a good zone does. I have been harping on all the benefits of playing a zone vs. the US, and I always point out that it keeps them off the free throw line, if played properly (Wade only got to the line 2 times after averaging 7 attempts per). A zone also does a good job taking the rhythm out of an offense, which it did in this 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 off the dribble, which often leads to more drawn fouls, 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. Are you listening Italian coach Recalcati?

Now the offense for Germany was basically non-existent. Dirk never had his jumper working & after he picked up his 3rd foul (2 of which were just ridiculous), he lost any amount of aggressiveness he started the game with. He reverted back to his fadeaway jumpshot mode that he has been criticized for years about in the NBA. Coming into this game, Dirk had been doing a good job doing damage in the paint & using his size advantage. He should have been down in the post more with guys like Battier & Bron guarding him. After halftime, Dirk looked like he was in a fog and was very careless with the ball and continued to settle for fadeaway jumpers, instead of attacking the basket.

I thought Stefan Hamann did a solid job being aggressive on the offensive end and put some pressure on the US defense with his drives. Ademola Okulaja continued his strong play doing a little bit of everyting--he finished with 15 & 9 rebs on 6/7 shooting. The Germans did not help their cause with 24 TOs, some of which were just dumb, unforced errors--Dirk, Okulaja & Hamann each had 5 apiece.

US now faces the highly underrated Greek club. Greece likes to slow down the pace & likes to apply defensive pressure of their own--they cause more turnovers per game then the US. Greece also pounded Germany in the exhibition stage by nearly 40 points and they easily handled Germany in the Gold medal game of last year's Euros. So this team is legit.