Thursday, August 30, 2007

USA Takes Care of Argentina

USA 91, Argentina 76

- Game wasn't as close as the score indicates, but Team USA didn't physically overwhelm Argentina like every other opponent. This game was never in doubt, but Team USA did not look all that impressive, and never really left Argentina in the dust. Even though the defense was pretty good, I would say this was Team USA's most sluggish performance overall.

- Team USA has made the commitment to switch on screens this year, and it was very effective tonite vs. Argentina. The overall ball pressure was top-notch, and helped force 21 TOs. Argentina did not shoot the long-ball well thanks to Team USA (though, Arg. missed some wide-open looks themselves), but they did shoot around 50% on 2pt attempts. So it wasn't a tremendous defensive night for the US, but still mighty good. You could tell Team USA was well-prepared for Argentina's tendencies by the revamped scouting dept.--an extremely underrated factor to Team USA's success. Having Tony Ronzone running things now is a good thing.

- Team USA shot 53% for the game, and a nice 38% from 3pt. But their outside shooting tailed off in the 2nd half (3/12), and the execution was not as crisp. Thought the offense stagnated somewhat in the 2nd half, and it allowed the Argentines to make a mini-run to make the game somewhat respectable. Also, giving up too many offensive rebounds to Argentina let them get below the 20-point threshold. US had issues with turnovers today (21), but it was not just a case of unforced errors--some of the credit has to go to Argentina for breaking on the ball well. US added to the ragged pace by fouling a little bit more than normal. Also, The US lost the rebound battle by 9, which is a rarity.

- Kobe came out on fire with 15 1st quarter points, drilling some bombs in the process. He finished at the rim with ease all night and also threw a few old-school whirling-dervish swoops to the rim that Argentina was hapless to stop. Kobe led the way today with 27 pts on 10/15 shooting, 3/7 on 3pts.

- Bron has rivaled Kobe as an all-around force this tourney, and tonite was no different--Bron filled it up with 15 pts, 6 rebs, 5 assts, 2 stls. Bron's defense has been nearly as impressive as Kobe's this summer, especially his propensity for helping on the backline. Bron did cool off a little from outside, 1/4 from 3pt, now he's only 15/24 from long range. Melo continued to be a scoring machine for 18 pts, while Dwight Howard chipped in with 9 & 9.

- Luis Scola was the best big guy on the floor, the problem was he wasn't on the floor for long because of foul trouble. Scola got almost anything he wanted on the offensive end--Luis was 8/12 from the floor for 20 pts in only 18 mins. (Hollinger must be salivating). He showed off his full arsenal: post moves, mid-range jumpers, few nice finishes off the move. It just sucks he picked up 3 fouls in the 1st quarter--the one with Billups was a joke, and his block on Melo was borderline. He challenged some shots as well on the defensive end.

- Defino continued his erratic shooting & probably launched a few too many bombs, but thought he did some nice things on defense & set up his teammates nicely. Pablo Prigioni had major issues with the size of Kidd & Billups, and the overall pressure forced him to make uncharacteristic mistakes (6 TOs), but did do a great job swiping passes on defense (4 stls). And how bout a shout-out to our boy Feddy Kammerichs. The lovechild of Brent Barry & Borat brought his trademark high-energy to the table, crashing the interior for 5 rebs (3 off) & 9 points, mostly on put-backs. Diego Lo Grippo was his usual scrappy self pitching in 11 points; not bad for a guy who was operating the Tilt-a-Whirl at the Clark County fair just 4 weeks ago.

- Why Coach Sergio Hernandez did not go to more zones looks, I'm not sure. I know the US has been stroking the ball very well in this tourney, but I really feel strongly about the importance of mixing up your defenses in FIBA play. A well-played zone can screw with the offense's rhythm (even with good shooters), and especially should be implemented vs. Team USA, who thrive on creating a rhythm.

The key word is a "well-played zone". I've seen some zones this year, but none have been very well-disciplined staying packed into the lane. The last team I've seen play a well-disciplined zone where their players did not stray to far away from the lane was Germany in the Worlds last year. And that just happened to be one of Team USA's roughest offensive games of the last few years.

If I was playing against the US, my primary defense is either a 2-3 or 2-1-2 zone with the "One-Foot-in-the-Paint" rule for all my defenders. If Team USA is going to beat me, they are going to do it with outside jumpers. Call it the lesser-of-two-evils theorem for dealing with Team USA: Would you rather man-up the US & have them shred you apart & build rhythm or would you rather have them prove themselves from the perimeter? I think the answer is pretty simple. Basically, you have to pick your poison when facing the US, have to sacrifice something. And in this case make them jumpshooters, if they make them, live with it.

- Now on to the semis to play Puerto Rico again, and on to the only game that matters this summer. If the US win, they're in the Olympics. If they somehow lose, they have to drag their butts to a qualifying tourney 6 weeks before the actual Olympics. But that's something Team USA version '07 will not have to worry about.


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Busy night for Kammerichs, bringing energy on the court and then even blogging a recap.

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