Tuesday, August 19, 2008

2008 Olympic Quarters Preview (Part II)

Also: Quarters Preview, Part I

In Part II, we'll take a look at the 2nd session of Quarterfinal games--USA-Australia & Argentina-Greece.

Last time these two teams met for an official game was the opening round of the playoffs at the '06 Worlds. Team USA actually played pretty effective defense in this game, where they they turned the screws in the 2nd quarter, and shutdown the Aussies' strong outside shooting game.

Have to imagine that Australia will throw everything in the playbook at Team USA. Imagine a fair amount of zone to force the US to beat them from outside. Try to milk the shot clock on offense, and be as physical on defense as possible to attempt to break up Team USA's flow. Use pass-fakes & backdoor action when you can. Implore your guards to keep their dribble alive as long as possible. Make sure players come meet the ball on passes.

Obviously, taking care of the ball & preventing runaway breaks vs. Team USA is the first priority on offense. At the '06 Worlds, turnovers were a mighty big problem for the Aussies, where they averaged roughly 20 TOs per game. But one thing that has helped their progress this year is that they have found ways to limit the miscues (13 TO/pg in Beijing). And this is vital vs. Team USA.

One thing I think they should consider, that I'm surprised I haven't seen more of from other teams, is freely giving fouls, especially before Team USA can get out in transition. I'm a little surprised because this is a common tactic in European ball. The one consistent flaw for Team USA has been their foul shooting, so make 'em work for their points at the line. Also, think this tactic can possibly muck up the rhythm that Team USA gets when they start breakin' & poppin'.

The "Boomers" have a good rotation of bigs that can all pop out to the perimeter, which could hinder Dwight. Bogut, Matt Nielsen, Anstey, & Andersen all have good range on their jumpers, and even have to be respected behind the arc. And much like in '06, the Aussies are geared toward finding good looks behind the 3pt line. They're shooting the 3 well as a team (44.4%) and have multiple threats besides their bigs, like Brad Newley, Patty Mills, Sam Worthington, & Dave Barlow.

Aussies have played well the last few games (though the Lith game can't be taken at face value), and had a effective gameplan vs. the US in the exhibition stage. But if the Americans keep shooting the perimeter shot like they have the last few games, the opposition has no hope.

This should be the highlight matchup of the quarters. Last met in similar circumstances in 2004, where Argentina held off the Greeks 69-64 in the quarters. this year's version of Argentina might be slightly inferior (certainly less depth), and this year's version of Greece actually looks to be more potent than the '04 squad (though of course, they will not be at home).

Expect to see a similar type of game play out this year, where Greece tries to keep the game in the low 70s/high 60s. Two very good defensive units peppered with versatile athletes. Greece's renowned man2man defense has been fairly solid thru the prelims, but is not causing the vast amount of turnovers that has been one of their calling cards in the past.

Argentina has been looking real good after their one narrow defeat to Lithuania in the opener. The ball-movement, off-ball movement, and spacing we're accustomed to with Arg. have reappeared. Manu looks rather healthy, and has been one of the top players at the Olympics thru the prelims. Nocioni has been a spastic presence all over the floor, and very effective on the boards (8 rebs per).

One concern for Argentina: has Coach Hernandez run his main guys into the ground? Knew depth would be a concern heading into the Olympics with Argentina, and Hernandez has been sticking with his top 6 guys, plus a small dose of biker-bar bouncer Roman Gonzalez. Playing Scola 40 minutes & Nocioni 35 mins vs. Russia in a meaningless game doesn't really make much sense. Greece definitely has the advantage with depth, and we'll see if they try to target the foul-prone duo of Scola & Oberto early.

Speaking of Luis, Scola continues to be a uber-efficient monster in FIBA. After a subpar shooting nite vs Lith., Luis has rebounded to average 19 pts & 6 rebs on 62%. Loves working the pick/roll where he will peel off to hit jumpers at the foul line area or work his way to the baseline for jumpers. Oberto & Luis continue to do a great job "getting lost" in their offense, and finding the open space.

Greece has the length & athleticism to hang with Argentina on the perimeter. Think Spanoulis could give Prigioni issues with his size & strength on both ends of the floor; Prigioni tends to struggle vs. bigger points. And very interested to see if Diamantidis gets the call to check Manu, he has the ability to cause some issues for Manu. SF P. Vasiliopoulos is a versatile defender who's an underrated athlete who could matchup well on Nocioni.

Can this Greece team find ways to get consistent scoring outside of Spanoulis? This continues to be a lingering issue for Team Hellas. Spanoulis has been their primary option looking to attack from up high either off picks or straight penetration. He's extremely dangerous as a pull-up shooter, but less effective when forced to be a standstill shooter.

The Greeks need to find some input from their frontline. The bigs for Greece have been inconsistent in the prelims after providing a nice boost in the Pre-Olympic tourney. 7-footer Bouroussis has shown some signs of life with back2back strong game, and his size could be a factor vs. the undersized Argentines. Not sure you will get much from Big Sofo since he's still not in bball shape. But think it's imperative Antonis Fotsis has strong game. Has to somehow neutralize the production of Scola. The talent is there with Fotsis, it's just a question of how assertive he wants to be.

Expect Greece to keep this game very close. Just need a solid outside shooting nite, Don't have to be great, just solid to keep things close. Think their defense has the goods to give Argentina rough patches. But in the end, have more faith in Argentina generating points when the offensive sets break down as opposed to Greece's ability to the same vs. Argentina's tough man defense.

Also: Quarters Preview, Part I


At 7:56 PM, Blogger john marzan said...

"One thing I think they should consider, that I'm surprised I haven't seen more of from other teams, is freely giving fouls, especially before Team USA can get out in transition. I'm a little surprised because this is a common tactic in European ball."

as long as they are not obvious-looking intentional fouls.

At 9:13 AM, Anonymous Hylas said...

As predicted, Greece-Argentina was a close and very entertaining game.

I have to say though, that I'm not impressed with any team in this Olympics. I can't understand why Calderon isn't handling the ball more; he is low on TOs and their best playmaker, and yet we have to watch Navarro fumbling the ball while going one-on-one, Lopez looking completely lost, and Rubio attempting highlight assists. I am not sold on Garbajosa; he's a big guy drifting around the 3pt line. On one fast break play he fled from an opposing player who then made a shaky lay up undisturbed.

I don't see why team USA would be better prepared for a close game than last years' incarnations. They still regularly give up backdoor cuts and overpressing could still backfire against better guard play. Their most advertised addition, Jason Kidd, has been a total non-factor this year (though he was great in the Americas qualification event), and I do not trust Dwyane Wade (might be the Freedarko indoctrination).

They are great, however, at blowing teams out, and chances are, they can do it twice more.

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