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Thursday, August 09, 2012

Bryant Emerges from Shooting Slump and James Has Historic Triple Double as Team USA Beats Australia

Team USA overcame yet another somewhat sluggish start to defeat Australia 119-86 in the quarterfinal round; this is the elimination stage of the Olympics and Team USA will face Argentina on Friday for the opportunity to play Russia or Spain in the gold medal game on Sunday. Kobe Bryant bounced back from a scoreless first half to score 20 points in the second half--and 12 of those points came in an outburst of four three pointers in 67 seconds during the fourth quarter, sealing the win by pushing Team USA's lead from 93-78 to 105-80 at the 4:43 mark. Bryant achieved his team-high point total on 6-14 field goal shooting after shooting just 14-36 from the field in Group A play. He also had three assists, tying for second best on Team USA, and he was an important presence defensively.

After the game, Coach Mike Krzyzewski effusively praised Bryant: "Not many people have achieved the excellence that he has, there are only a few. They take responsibility; they don't make excuses...he is one of the top-10 players of all-time, maybe one of the top-5 players of all time. He just keeps working. You would be amazed at the preparation he puts in for a contest and you just have to stick with him because he has produced five NBA championships and an Olympic gold medal for us and tonight he really broke out of his scoring slump. I like the fact that they (Australia) have great camaraderie but we do too. The way his teammates really went up for him and one of the great plays was when LeBron hit him in the corner with a rhythm pass and helping him get off. When he stole the ball a couple times, instead of going for layups the bench was saying 'shoot it again!' They have seen him do that. So I love that he has that support from his teammates."

While Bryant elevated his personal level of play, LeBron James demonstrated once again why he must be considered the best player in the world. James notched the first triple double in U.S. Olympic basketball history (assists have only been officially tracked in the Olympics since 1976, so we do not know if Oscar Robertson, Jerry West or someone else had a triple double before that year): James tallied 11 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists, tying the U.S. Olympic single game record for assists also held by Phil Ford, Leon Wood and Michael Jordan. James is Team USA's best player, followed closely by Kevin Durant (who finished with 14 points and five rebounds). Bryant is number three--both on this team and in the NBA overall--but his propensity to rise to the occasion in clutch situations and his ability to impact a game at both ends of the court make him a crucial member of Team USA's roster even if his statistical imprint has at times been negligible. Deron Williams led Team USA with 13 first half points and he finished with 18 points, second only to Bryant. Carmelo Anthony (17 points) and Kevin Love (10 points, 11 rebounds) were the other double figure scorers for Team USA.

Patty Mills scored a game-high 26 points for Australia. He is the prototypical FIBA guard that gives Team USA fits: he is tough-minded, he can hit the three (he shot 4-9 from long distance versus Team USA) and he can drive to the hoop in the screen/roll game. Joe Ingles added 19 points and a team-high eight rebounds; it is worth noting that--even though Team USA's starting center Tyson Chandler had only two rebounds in just nine minutes--Team USA outrebounded Australia 52-42.

Australia took an early 8-5 lead after Mills drained his first two three pointers but Team USA eventually settled in defensively to go up 28-21 by the end of the first quarter. Team USA's defensive execution was also spotty at times in the second quarter but Deron Williams erupted for 11 points to help Team USA push the margin to 56-42 by halftime. Australia opened the third quarter with an 11-0 run and Team USA once again faced a competitive game in the second half, just like the previous contests versus Argentina and Lithuania. Bryant assisted on a three pointer by Durant and he tossed a lob to Chandler for an emphatic two handed dunk to give Team USA some breathing room and he later scored eight points in two minutes during a 9-2 run that gave Team USA a 70-58 lead. Australia hung tough the rest of the quarter and still were within striking distance (84-70) entering the fourth quarter.

The margin stayed around the 15 point range until Bryant's barrage of three pointers ended all resistance. Not long after that, Bryant and James headed to the bench, their work over for the night.

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posted by David Friedman @ 2:05 AM



At Thursday, August 09, 2012 8:02:00 AM, Anonymous LakerFan in Jamaica said...

It was nice to see Kobe Bryant break out of his shooting slump. And in such a spectacular way! The pundits/stat gurus have been salivating for days that he was done, was a huge detriment to Team USA and should be benched by Coach K. As a Laker fan, and a basketball fan, it was lovely to see them proved wrong..again! And to see Coach K's trust in Kobe proved right. Bryant might be old, but he's not done quite yet :)

While not a fan of his, I must admit that Lebron James is insanely good! That pass to Carmelo Anthony in the 1st half was unbelievable.

Thanks for the write-ups after each game, David. It makes a nice change from the reporting elsewhere.

At Thursday, August 09, 2012 10:21:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kobe finally got out of shooting slump.kobe a rhythm player on lakers he put up 20 plus shots. On this team he was only putting up five so it was hard to get in rhythm. His game is suited for nba not fiba. He did what he should of been doing shoot wide open shots off paul assists or lebron assists, not take tough contested two. Like u on the lakers.

The star of the Olympic been lebron tho he impact the gane more than anyone. He recorded first triple double in olympic us a history. He has closed for this team he been the glue guy on the team. I think they will blowout argentina and spain or russia USA gold.

At Thursday, August 09, 2012 2:20:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear David,

I am not able to watch games but contrary to your opinion many ESPN writers strongly say that Kobe's defense has been mediocre.What is your take on this?


At Thursday, August 09, 2012 9:56:00 PM, Anonymous jackF said...

Its amazing how people keep forgetting one fact: Kobe is 34 years old!! Not only that the amount of mileage he has on knees are crazy. he's' been playing in the league for 16-17 years and he's still a top 5 player.

At Thursday, August 09, 2012 11:25:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


In general, Team USA has gambled a bit too recklessly on the perimeter and I don't think that Kobe is quite the lockdown defender that he was for the 2008 team but I would not describe his defense as "mediocre." There is a reason that Coach K keeps him on the court in crucial situations in close games even when Bryant is not shooting well, just like there is a reason that Melo gets benched in those situations even if he is shooting well.

At Thursday, August 09, 2012 11:47:00 PM, Anonymous Eric said...


with the recent news of dwight howard finally going to LA, what are your thoughts of their chances of contending with the west and with the likes of the heat and the other contenders of the east?

At Friday, August 10, 2012 12:40:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


In general, I prefer (1) to refrain from analyzing news until is official and (2) to keep each comment thread focused on the original article. If Howard is traded to the Lakers I will write an article analyzing the entire deal but I have already stated that I expected Howard to ultimately end up with the Lakers and that the Lakers would be a serious title contender with a nucleus of Bryant-Howard-Nash. If it is true that the Lakers have managed to retain Pau Gasol as well then, barring injury, the Lakers are arguably the best team in the league.

At Friday, August 10, 2012 12:34:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...



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