After a blazing fast start, with the half-court offense flowing thru Carmelo, Team USA found itself in a dog fight midway thru the 2nd period. The offense became stagnant. Kobe became jump shooting Kobe. Nobody could hit a 3 or a FT, and the Aussies were beating the on-ball pressure and scoring on their end. However, a late quarter run by the US, capped by a Deron Williams steal and 3 at the buzzer had the team up by 12 at the half, and a 14-0 run to start the 3rd put the game well out of reach.
A few things jumped out. First was the 57 to 28 rebounding advantage for the US, which included 19 offensive rebounds. That is pathetic on the part of AUS. For most of the game, they had a taller lineup out there than the US, who only play one of Howard, Bosh or Boozer at a time, but never together. At one point, LBJ was the center. How about 8 boards by D Wade (he has been great on the glass), and 7 by Chris Paul? Bosh, Melo, Howard and LeBron (9 by him) also did nice work on the boards. Had the Aussies been able to do their job on the defensive glass and create scoring opportunites out of the USA's early misses, it may have actually been a game.
Compared to the previous opponents, Australia did a good job taking care of the ball. 18 turnovers is a decent number against the US assault. Still, the US did snag 10 steals, 4 by James alone. Byt the time the match ended, the US had put up respectable shooting numbers from everywhere but the stripe.
Even when the game was close, it wasn't really close. The US was waaaay more athletic, and with the exception of the Aussie Mills (gosh is he fast), team US was the quicker team. Kobe is peaking at the right time, going for 25 points on 10/16 shooting. I have a new found respect for Kobe. He has been a great teammate and ambassador for all of the Olympic athletes. He and LeBron show up together at every big event and have represented well. I love the story Kobe told about how he got goose bumps at the sight of his own USA jersey. He said that he is proud to be an American, and reasserted the claim when asked by a doubtful Chris Collinsworth. Good on him.
I think everyone played well and did their job. The team has really grown as a unit. That was the key ingredient missing in 2006. Though they only assisted on 16 FG's, way below their average, this is the best passing team this side of the Harlem Globetrotters. Fun to watch. I have enjoyed watching these games and posting about them here.
Argentina is next, after a great game against Greece that went down to the wire. I don't see them having the firepower to compete, especially defensivley.. Now that Bosh has shown a great ability to play the S/R, I think our defense should be able to hang in there. They will need to protect the permieter against the likes of Ginobli and Nocioni.
On the other side of the bracket, Spain and Lithuania will face off in what should be a competitive contest. I don't see either of those teams beating us in the final game on Sunday.
So, I am still declaring Gold for the US, and will have to be proven otherwise.