No, Canada: Team USA Rolls to 113-63 WinSeven Team USA players scored in double figures in a 113-63 win over Canada in the FIBA Americas tournament. Team USA is now 3-0 and will close out Group B play with a game against Brazil (2-0) tomorrow. The familiar quintet of Jason Kidd, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard again started for Team USA. Anthony's smooth offensive game was on full display, as he poured in a game-high 25 points on 9-12 shooting in just 18 minutes. Michael Redd added 19 points, while Kobe Bryant contributed 15 points, LeBron James had a team-high eight rebounds and Deron Williams accumulated a game-high six assists in only 13 minutes.
Team USA hit Canada with a 13-4 run to open the game but some defensive lapses enabled Canada to pull within 28-21 by the end of the first quarter. Olumuyiwa Famutimi made three three pointers and scored 11 of his team-high 17 points in the first quarter; defending the three point arc is always crucially important for Team USA in FIBA play and Team USA locked down in that category for the remainder of the game, allowing Canada's entire team to make only two more three pointers. Anthony had 12 points on 5-8 shooting in the first quarter and Bryant, looking for his shot more aggressively than he did in the previous two contests, scored eight points on 3-6 shooting. More importantly, he avoided the early foul trouble that forced him to the bench in each of those games, enabling him to play all 10 minutes in the opening stanza.
Bryant sat out the first 2:26 of the second quarter and Team USA used an 8-4 mini run to push the margin to double figures, 36-25. When Bryant returned, Team USA showed the defensive intensity that must be this team's calling card in FIBA play, holding Canada scoreless for nearly four minutes and effectively sealing the victory with a 19-0 run. Bryant went to the bench at the 3:08 mark and Team USA up 58-27. Team USA led 65-34 at halftime. This dominance was built on a 9-0 advantage in blocked shots (according to ESPN2's stats; the official box score only listed six blocked shots for Team USA in the entire game, which seems low) and a 22-13 rebounding edge; relentless pressure by perimeter defenders (notably Bryant and Kidd but also Williams and others on occasion) led to turnovers and awkward, easy to block attempts and these defensive stops inevitably created open court scoring opportunities, which Anthony (20 points, 7-9 shooting), Redd (13 points) and Bryant (10 points) fully exploited. That trend continued in the third quarter, as Bryant got a steal on the opening possession. Team USA did not convert that opportunity into a score but soon afterwards Bryant's sweet behind the back pass to Howard led to a dunk, though it does not appear that Bryant was officially credited with an assist on the play. Later, James fired a great bounce pass from the top of the key to a cutting Bryant, who made an acrobatic reverse layup.
At the 4:26 mark of the third quarter, Bryant headed to the bench for good with Team USA leading 81-39. Team USA coasted to a 95-49 advantage by the end of the quarter and outscored Canada 18-14 in "extensive gar-bage time" in the fourth quarter. This time, Team USA's scoring differentials were 64-28 with Bryant in the game and 47-35 when he sat out. Obviously, the intensity is not quite the same during "extensive gar-bage time" but I still believe that team defense and Team USA's scoring differentials with and without Bryant are two stories that are worth tracking; for one thing, these themes are related, because it was apparent from the opening tip of the first game that Bryant's defensive intensity is at a very high level and that this rubs off on the rest of the team (Kidd's defensive effort has also been excellent). A third theme that has developed is that this version of Team USA starts games strongly, whereas last year's squad often got off to slow starts in the FIBA World Championships. All three of these things will be critically important when Team USA faces the elite FIBA teams, whether that occurs in this event or next year in the Olympics. Redd's shooting is certainly a welcome addition to the team but scoring has never been a problem for Team USA and if Redd were to go cold there are more than enough other scoring options for Team USA to utilize in his place--and anyone who thinks differently should remember that Team USA scored 95 points (in a 40 minute game) in last year's loss to Greece.
posted by David Friedman @ 6:57 PM