Team USA began their run for a back-to-back Olympic gold medal in stunning fashion this morning opening the tournament with a fantastic lob from Lebron James to Tyson Chandler for the and-1 slam. The France national team, fuelled by Tony Parker’s play gave the United States men plenty of things to worry about in the first quarter, as their sluggish start had them up by only one point.
Among the different line-ups used by Coach K, the Lebron-at-center experiment was one of the
more interesting ones. With the Lebron in the middle, it frees up USA’s three point shooters quite a bit. Although Lebron is about as versatile it gets, his lack of size at the 5 could prove to hurt the United States in later match-ups. However, a determined Lebron is about is physical as it gets. If Coach K strategically matches Lebron up against certain teams at the center position – and you know he will – it could play huge dividends for the United States in terms of quickness and shooting.
The second quarter saw more of what Lebron generally does in the NBA, with the ball in his hands. Him and Chris Paul were relentless getting into the lane, kicking it out to USA’s open shooters. The team couldn’t miss from three-point land while Kevin Durant poured in 15 to give USA a 16 point half-time lead.
Team USA opened up the third quarter on a much rougher note, clanking a few contested shots and settling for jumpers. However, their talent alone gave them the advantage on offense as their tantalizing defense allowed just 30 points from France through-out the second and third quarter. By the start of the fourth, the game was beyond over. While USA’s three-point shooting was supreme, the France national team shot just 2 for 23 from the outside, due to the United States juggernaut perimeter defense.
TL;DR: After a slow start, the second and third quarter looked a lot like this for the respective teams:
Fourth quarter tid-bits:
- A completed alley-oop pass marked Anthony Davis’ first Olympic points of his career. Hopefully, the first of many. You can’t name too many guys who scored their first Olympic points at the highest level, before they scored their first NBA points.
- James Harden’s ferocious fast-break slam dunk is bound to be on SportsCenter later today. Look for it. It’ll be worth your time, I promise.
While Lebron did a little bit of everything in this morning’s game, it was Kevin Durant’s steady 22-point performance that fuelled the USA win. The thing with Durant is that he’s dangerous even when he’s being double-teamed. If you get him in good scoring positions like coach K has been doing… the other team isn’t going to stand much of a chance.
A pleasant surprise for the team was Kevin Love’s 14 point performance off the bench, coming off a disappointing exhibition outing. If he can continue to play well, his size and rebounding will be paramount for Team USA. Love, Kobe and Durant were the only USA players to score in double digits tonight, even though the final score was 98 – 71, showing that the team’s unselfish nature has proven to be a cornerstone to their success.
While the mens national team easily routed France this morning, they were far from perfect. They’re still looking to fix many flaws and while things such as Westbrook’s erratic play, their lack of size down low and their inconsistent energy pose problems for them, the question is whether those problems are of enough magnitude to cost them the gold medal. Chances are, they aren’t. This team has far too much talent to justify a loss in this tournament and while it COULD happen… the chances are slim.
Next up for the United States national team is Tunisia on Tuesday. The game will be at 4 PM CST, or 10 PM in London. Tunisia is coming off a loss against Nigeria, not exactly a staple for great national play, so look for the United States men to feast against this team.