Team USA's Quickness Overwhelms Great BritainTeam USA improved to 3-0 on their five game pre-Olympic exhibition tour with a 118-78 victory over Great Britain. Six Team USA players scored in double figures: Carmelo Anthony (19 points on 8-10 field goal shooting), Deron Williams (19 points on 7-8 field goal shooting), LeBron James (16 points on 7-10 field goal shooting, plus six rebounds, four assists and two steals), Russell Westbrook (15 points on 5-9 field goal shooting, plus a game-high nine assists), Kevin Durant (13 points on 5-12 field goal shooting) and Anthony Davis (11 points on 5-7 field goal shooting). Kobe Bryant had another quiet game offensively (five points on 1-3 field goal shooting) but he contributed five rebounds, three assists and two steals; Bryant, James, Westbrook, Williams and Chris Paul (three points, six assists, three steals) put tremendous pressure on Great Britain's perimeter players and helped Team USA to force 27 turnovers. That relentless defensive effort led to easy baskets and is the main reason that Team USA shot .603 from the field. Chicago All-Star Luol Deng led Great Britain with a game-high 25 points but he only shot 7-18 from the field. Former NBA player Pops Mensa-Bonsu contributed 12 points and a game-high nine rebounds.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski responded to Team USA's sluggish first quarter against Brazil by making two changes to his starting lineup, benching Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul in favor of Kevin Durant and Deron Williams respectively. Team USA opened up a 13-6 lead by the 5:07 mark when Paul entered the game for Williams and Anthony came in for Chandler. Anthony performed very well in a reserve role, scoring 10 first quarter points as Team USA extended the margin to 33-20 by the end of the quarter.
Team USA led 55-37 at halftime and they quickly broke the game open in the third quarter with the new starting lineup once again on the court; Williams scored Team USA's first 11 points--and had 14 in the quarter overall--as Team USA went up 66-41 and never looked back. Team USA was on top 89-55 at the end of the third quarter, turning the final 10 minutes of the game into--as Marv Albert loves to say--"extensive garbage time."
After the game, Coach Krzyzewski downplayed the significance of the starting lineup changes, suggesting that Team USA in effect has seven starters and that some combination of four of those players plus center Tyson Chandler will start each game. It is probably true that it does not make a big difference which five of those seven players start the game but I still suspect that if/when Team USA is seriously challenged the "starters" whose end of the game minutes are most likely to be curtailed are Anthony's and Chandler's; Team USA cannot really go "big," so the best way for them to change up the game is to go "small," use pressure defense all over the court and then score in transition. The ideal lineup in that kind of scenario would feature James, Durant, Bryant and then some combination of Paul, Westbrook and Williams. Andre Iguodala could also potentially be used in such a case. James or Durant can play center, while the other three players can switch and trap on the perimeter; Team USA should score a lot of fast break points playing that way but even if an opposing team succeeds in slowing the game down Team USA could still run an effective half court FIBA offense with James operating in the post and the other four players spotting up behind the shorter FIBA three point line and/or cutting to the hoop when James is double-teamed.
posted by David Friedman @ 10:36 PM