Team USA 106, Croatia 76 Re-Thoughts

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Aug. 18, 2010 - Madrid, C. A. de Madrid, Spain - MADRID, 18/08/2010.- US national basketball team player Eric Gordon, during the trainning session held by the team at the Caja Magica pavillion in Madrid, Spain, 18 August 2010, ahead of their Madrid Tournament matches against Lithuania and Spain the upcoming weekend.

"When I start making shots, I don't just make shots....I BE STROKIN'." (Credit: YardBarker.com)

Team USA passed their first test in the 2010 FIBA World Championships, running away from Croatia on route to a 106-76 victory. The story of the game was simple: Team USA came out hot (7-0 run in first 2 minutes), Croatia answered and made it a tight first quarter, Team USA made the right adjustments in the second quarter and pulled away from there. Not much else to it if you ask me, but Team USA did look flat-out dominant in the final 30 minutes of this game. They out-scored Croatia 84-58 over the last three periods and shot 54% for the game.

I’ll admit the first quarter freaked me out a bit, for a couple reasons. It wasn’t just because the score was close, it was why it was close. Team USA came out with a lot of fire, tremendous activity on defense combined with crisp movement on offense. And then, when the second unit came in that kind of came to a halt. All of a sudden, Team USA looked a tad bit flat footed on defense, occasionally late on rotations, sometimes even watching Croatia shoot or get rebounds. Offensively they became a little more impatient than many should like, struggling to attack Croatia’s zone early, instead opting to take quick jumpers. It seemed as if bad habits were creeping in, the kind of habits that can kill you in international play. The kind of habits that have hurt the US in the past.

However, the beauty of this Colangelo/Coach K era of USA Basketball is those bad habits are gone. They make adjustments, they slow down, and they will their way to victory. Slowly but surely whenever Croatia brought that zone back the ball was moving more. Whenever Croatia tried to foul to slow fast breaks, Team USA executed in the half-court. It’s those little things that win you games in international play. Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant combined to score Team USA’s first 10 points of the 2nd quarter, giving them a lead they would never give back. I credit their play for Team USA’s win, however I think some credit should go to Chauncey Billups. Say what you want about Mr. Big Shot, but he definitely is having a large impact on this Team USA. His experience shows in the little things he does. He picked the team back up defensively, setting the tone by picking Croatia’s guards up in the backcourt and the rest of the team followed. Offensively, they looked better and more focused with him running the show. He’s much more important to this team than many believe.

The beauty of this victory (and this team) is it was truly a team effort, everyone played their role and played a role in this victory. Five players scored in double figures (Durant, Gordon, Billups, Gay, Westbrook) and no player scored less than 5 minutes. It just felt like everyone had a hand in the win and you could honestly point out what everyone did. Iguodala’s defensive activity, Odom’s work on Ante Tomic (Tomic went 4-10, didn’t get many deep post opportunites), Gordon’s shooting (incredible, 3-5 from deep), Westbrook’s speed, Granger/Gay’s versatility, Chandler’s size, Love’s rebounding and outlet passing (don’t sleep on him), Curry’s mouthpiece (rough game). Let’s not forget this is an ‘inexperienced’ team only turned the ball over 7 times. If everyone continues to chip in like this, Team USA is going to be a problem for everyone to deal with.

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Tags: Ante Tomic Coach K Danny Granger Derrick Rose Eric Gordon Fiba World Championships Jerry Colangelo Kevin Durant Kevin Love Lamar Odom Rudy Gay Russell Westbrook Stephen Curry Team USA Tyson Chandler Usa Basketball Usa Croatia

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