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Saturday, August 06, 2016

Team USA Routs China 119-62 in Olympics Opener

China took a 2-0 lead versus Team USA in the first game of Group A play but that was China's highlight moment before Team USA rolled to a 119-62 victory. Kevin Durant scored a game-high 25 points on 10-14 field goal shooting and he also had a game-high six assists. Yi Jianlian led China with 25 points but he shot just 8-19 from the field.

Team USA started Durant, Klay Thompson, Carmelo Anthony, DeMarcus Cousins and Kyrie Irving. Doug Collins deemed this Team USA's "best offensive lineup," while he described the second unit featuring Kyle Lowry, Jimmy Butler, Paul George, DeMar DeRozan and DeAndre Jordan as the "pitbull unit" that is very defensive-minded.

Team USA's first unit looked just a little sluggish during the first few possessions but they soon held a 17-6 lead after Durant opened the game with six points on 3-3 field goal shooting. Team USA never looked back after that, pushing the margin to 30-10 by the end of the first quarter and 59-30 at halftime. Durant scored 17 points in the first half on 7-9 field goal shooting, including 3-4 from three point range. Team USA forced 15 turnovers in the first half as China struggled to run any kind of halfcourt offense.

China matched Team USA basket for basket early in the third quarter but then Team USA went on another huge run to extend the lead to 91-47 by the end of the quarter.

This game is not much of a measuring stick for Team USA but it is a good sign that Team USA is committed to strong defense and unselfish offensive play. It is sometimes suggested that Team USA needs to have good three point shooters in order to win in FIBA play but the reality is that there are four keys for Team USA that Doug Collins mentioned during the 2012 Olympics and that I had previously noted in my analysis of Team USA's losses in FIBA play between 2002 and 2006:

1) Pressure defense converted into points off of turnovers
2) Defend the three point line
3) Defensive rebounding
4) Depth

Team USA excelled in all four areas versus China, forcing 24 turnovers, holding China to 5-17 three point shooting, grabbing 33 defensive rebounds while allowing only seven offensive rebounds and using their depth to wear China down, resulting in big runs that blew the game open. Team USA's depth, athleticism and versatility are overwhelming.

Durant was the best player on the court but a good case could be made that the second best player was DeMarcus Cousins, who finished with 17 points on 6-8 field goal shooting plus five rebounds in just 15 minutes. No one in this tournament can guard Cousins in the post and that consistent inside scoring threat could be important if Team USA faces a squad that does not turn the ball over and that defends well on the perimeter.

The Chinese team was overmatched but their one bright spot was Yi Jianlian, a former NBA player who Collins repeatedly stated still belongs in the NBA based on his talent. Collins noted that the only reason Jianlian is not in the NBA is that Jianlian lacks sufficient work ethic and drive to succeed at that level. Collins contrasted Jianlian's attitude with the superb work ethic displayed by Yao Ming. Jianlian justified Collins' assessment of his raw talent by displaying some nice offensive moves and he also tied for team-high honors with six rebounds.

Team USA will next face Venezuela on Monday night.

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posted by David Friedman @ 11:36 PM

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