Well, that was fun. The American team showed the world tonight that they are indeed quite serious about winning the Gold. This battle of the unbeaten was a blowout from the beginning.
The US got off to a great start with LeBron and Carmelo hitting a couple of early 3's and Howard getting a couple of early dunks. Kobe Bryant fought thru a Pau Gasol screen by knocking his Laker teammate to the floor, fullback style, before getting into early foul trouble. But it helped set the tone and send a message that the US is not here to fool around.
The game was fairly close mid-way thru the first, but our guys have been able to increase their leads when they go to the bench. That's because the US has Dwayne Wade, who has perhaps been the most determined and spectacular player on the team thus far. He is the teams leading scorer, even while coming off the bench, shooting 73% from the field in the Olympics. Wade is virtually everywhere on the court, in the passing lanes, diving on he floor, blocking shots, and rebounding. He is really making things happen for the US.
Team USA led by 9 after one, and by 16 at the half. Chris Paul and the second unit played great in the 2nd quarter, especially Tayshaun Prince, who shot 3/4 from downtown and defended well. Bosh, the teams leading rebounder, was again effective on the glass, and played solid defense down low against the Gasol brothers. Paul vs. those poor Spanish guards was a huge mismatch, especially when they would try some on-ball pressure. Paul was able to blow right by them time and again and create easy baskets for his teammates. CP3 had 14 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds, and 5 steals. Coach K loves playing Paul and Williams together. It sure worked today. Williams had 11 pts. and 3 dimes before fouling out. It sure is nice to have good point guards. They destroyed Calderon, Rudy and Little Ricky, who were a combined 5-23.
Kobe struggled with his shooting and foul trouble, but he played solid defense on Spain's backcourt while he was on the floor. Carmelo finished with 16 points on 6 for 8 shooting, including 4 for 6 from downtown, his best game so far and a flashback to the last two years of summer ball, when he was the teams most effective offensive player. Getting him going early is huge. Melo is an ideal FIBA player with his zone busting shooting ability. But he is not the focal point of the offense this time around. That role has fallen to LeBron James.
Bron Bron has been the team's leader in assists, minutes, and blocked shots, and is second on the team in scoring, rebounding and steals. He is the guy that keeps the ship steady, and is also a nightmare match up athletically for the teams he is facing, I mean, who on Spain, Greece, or Argentina can defend perhaps the world's best player? The King finished tonight with 18 pts., 5 boards, 8 assists and 4 steals.
As a team, the US held the Spaniards to just 39% shooting from the field, while forcing 28 turnovers, 16 of them steals. Fast break points were 32-0 in favor of the US. The game was quite lopsided. This was a blowout, and a statement. I predicted a 20 pt. win. But I'll take 37.
Whether or not Spain put it in cruise control for the 2nd half, it is hard to say. I personally don't think that was the case. Quite the contrary, actually. Spain looked to be using the 4th quarter to find something that would work in case there is a future meeting. Their starters remained in the game late, trying to run their sets and hit some shots. The US never relented, and Spain can't be feeling too confident at this point. As Doug Collins pointed out on the NBC broadcast, Spain's offense resembles an NBA offense, more than a European one. And the US is clearly the best NBA team in Beijing. This is not a good match up for Spain. I think they realize that, too.
Were there weaknesses? A few. Lot's of turnovers. But that is going to happen with a team that runs and passes at this rate. It is hard to imagine that Argentina or Lithuania, even with their style of play, will be able to defeat this US squad, which is beginning to look like the 2nd best sports team ever assembled (sorry, but Dream Team 1 still has the advantage).
So I am sticking to my guns here. The US will bring home the Gold. And I'll even up it. I don't think any game will be closer than 20 pts.