Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Random USA-Germany Thoughts

Some random observations from the 85-65 US victory...

The first half was awful. In the first half the US played into every NBA stereotype. The was no team game, a lot of one-on-one, they couldn't hit a jumper and they played lax defense. They were jumping the passing lanes looking for easy scores, instead of playing the lockdown defense they showed off versus Australia. The US only lead by a point at halftime and looked nervous and unsure of itself.

The second half wasn't too great either. Yes, they won by 20 points, but they more or less outlasted Germany. The US stepped up the pressure D, got some easy transition buckets and just overwhelmed the Germans. If Dirk had played well (see next paragraph) who knows how the second half had been.

Dirk didn't play very well. Maybe he was too excited to play against his NBA foes, maybe he was just worn out from playing basketball for 2,430 straight months or maybe it was Team USA's defense. I dunno. But Team USA did a great job defending him all game. LeBron did very well versus Dirk, as did Battier and Bosh. Coach K kept throwing different looks (and fresh legs) at Dirk to keep him off his toes.

Team USA's captains didn't play very well either. I thought LeBron had the strongest game out of the three. Wade and Anthony seemed to just keep shooting. They both had awful nights from the floor, but I got the feeling that even though the shots weren't falling, because of how well they've played, they were just going to keep jacking them up. 'Melo was 7-19 (3-9 from three) and Wade was 1-11 (0-5 from three). They played right into Germany's hands; the Germans played zone and Wade and Anthony didn't make them work and settled for jumpers (to be fair, a lot of team USA did the same thing, but Wade and 'Melo stood out the most).

More LeBron. He had a lot of good and a lot of bad. LeBron played great defense on Dirk, just phenomenal. However, when guarding other players, he seemed to lack the same intensity. James also took his fair share of jumpers, but he also took the ball to the hole more. At the end of the third period Team USA started to run plays for James in the post (Mike Brown pay attention!) and he dominated the Germans. While James was posting up, 'Melo was on the bench just screaming "take him" and "post him up", it is almost as James is unsure of his post moves and 'Melo was trying to give him confidence. Well, it worked (also, I've never seen James go into the post, in any game, and not accomplish something, like score, draw a foul or kick out for a jumper. Cavs fans need to see more of this).

Still more LeBron. He had more than his fair share of turn overs, 7. A lot of these were trying to make too fine of passes and little things, but a few were off of charges. At least one of these was bullshit and the refs blew it. Which brings me to my next point...

The refs were awful. The first half was exceptionally bad. One of the reason why 'Melo and Wade's field goal numbers were so awful was lack of fouls being called. In the first half, on the few times Wade and 'Melo did drive, they were hacked or bumped with no calls. And the bad calls didn't just hurt the US, Dwight Howard got possibly the worst continuation call I've ever seen. The play was dead and he layed it up afterwards, and the refs counted it! It was terrible.

Team defense stunk, but induvidual defense didn't. While the US seemed to play too many passing lanes and had too many break downs, Chris Bosh, LeBron James and Kirk Hinrich played exceptional defense. Hinrich applied constant pressure the entire time he was on the floor. He was all over the place. Bosh played good help D and (I thought, though the announcer didn't) played Dirk very well. Speaking of Bosh...

Bosh played really really well. Twice Bosh sneaked behind Germany's zone defense for an alley oop. Bosh guarded guys in the post and on the perimeter. He was all over the place and really left his imprint on the game. This is night and day from the Italy game, where he looked lost and unsure.

Greece is next. Hopefully this game is a wake up call for Team USA. They didn't look impressive this game (after the ran away with the last two) and let's hope Coach K makes sure that these guys know they have to play a team offense.

Finally. Stop shooting threes! They were 10-40. 40! I know teams are going to play zone versus the US, but come on, the US has the biggest, strongest, tallest guys on the court at all time. Use that height. Post up or attack the rim please. Shooting threes with 15 seconds left on the shot clock is not fun to watch (and it doesn't seem to help you win).

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