Monday, August 27, 2007

USA Runs Past Mexico

USA 127, Mexico 100

- "Cuarenta minutos de Infierno" never really materialized for Mexico, but Nolan's style did induce Team USA into a fast-breaking frenzy that covered up there lackluster defensive effort. But Team USA has so much room for error this summer, mediocre defense will not effect them too much--they still won this game by 27, and were never seriously challenged.

- Definitely the most uninspired defensive preformance by Team USA so far--Mexico shot 46% overall, and a sizzling 15/28 from 3pt. They did not seem to have the same intensity that has powered them thru the tourney in the 1st round. A letdown in intensity is to be expected when you are playing games nearly every night, though.

- Saw a few too many times where guys were standing straight up on defense, and did not seem to want to move their feet.
Double teams were split often, rotations were slow, and the hedging on the screens was not up to snuff. Don't mean to make excuses, but some of the players looked a little gassed out, especially Kobe. He was not as active on defense as he has been, and even though he scored 21 pts, he looked like he was a step slow out there.

- Team USA still was able to win the game handily because they were a transition machine--they were flying out off of misses & off the 19 TOs of Mexico for an endless parade of easy looks. Not sure how many fast break points Team USA had (Fiba does not display them), but it felt like they had about 30+.

- I know Nolan's style for Mexico has been to extend pressure in their half-court zone look, but maybe a better idea would have been to keep his players near the paint vs. Team USA. There trapping out of the zone opened gaping holes for Team USA to exploit. Team USA ended with too many dunks & uncontested finishes to count in the half-court set.

- Team USA had very little problem scoring the ball tonite, shooting 58% overall & had little problem moving the ball thru the extended zone of Mexico. Were not quite as proficient from the 3pt. line as they have been, but were still solid (36%).

- Melo led the way once again on offense with 28 pts, mixing his jumpers with aggressive finishes at the rim. He got some scoring off his offensive board work as well--3 off, 5 overall for Melo. Bron gave Team USA's best all-around effort tonite with 19 (6/7), 5 rebs, 5 assts, & 2 blks. Bron was even burying his outside jumpers--3/3 from deep--and he was the one US player whose defense was pretty solid.

- Dwight Howard pitched 19 on 9/10, pretty much all dunks. Mike Redd continued his strong play with 15 pts. And no surprise Jason Kidd took to the open-court game Mexico wanted--Kidd had 7 assists & 3 steals.

- I liked what I've seen of Romel Beck(Castro) so far in this tourney, and felt before tonite's game he probably deserved a NBA training camp invite, but after tonite, he's definitely should be getting some calls. Beck is a long, lanky athlete with a nice shot & solid ball-handling skills, and he presented some problems for Team USA tonite with 20 pts on 6/12, 4/8 from downtown. He even shook Kobe with a quick crossover into a 3pt. shot a la Iverson vs. MJ.

- Ex-Cal Irvine center Adam Parada showcased some of his nice post skills & touch down low with 17 pts on 8/12. He maybe even garnered a training camp invite considering he's a 7-footer with solid passing skills as well. Fat Lever's son, Anthony Lever-Pedroza, had another strong game with 19, 4 rebs, & 6 assts. And veteran sharpshooter Victor Mariscal was stroking from deep just like the Puerto Rico game--5/8 from 3pt for 19 pts. Beck, Pedroza, & Mariscal combined to shoot 13/22 from 3pt range.

- Next up for the US is Puerto Rico. P. Rico might be the most inconsistent team in this tourney where they blow out Panama by 40 one night then squander a double-digit lead to Uruguay the next. And now they just pull off a mini-upset by pounding Brazil after going 1-3 in the 1st round; not sure what we got here with this P.R. squad.

Their backcourt is their strength with Carlos Arroyo & Larry Ayuso leading the way, and Juan Barea & Rick Apodaca providng some talent off the bench. Arroyo & Ayuso can score the ball in FIBA play, and both have given the US trouble in the past.

P. Rico has actually played the US tough the last few times they have played: they were competitive with them last year only losing by 11, they crushed the US in '04, and even provided one of the few rough outings for the '03 Team USA in the Semis.

But can't foresee a competitive contest this year because PR's frontline is not packing much punch. PJ Ramos is huge and has flashed glimpses of some potential, but he can never seem to sustain any type of consistency. Angelo Reyes is the only other interior player of note, and he's just a dirty work, rebounder type. 7-footer Ricky Sanchez (Nuggets) will only look to shoot 3pts & not much else.

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