This thing was close today. Too close. Spain played a great game against an inconsistent US team that appeared to be under pressure and very tight.
Early foul trouble, shaky rebounding, poor defense, great 3 pt shooting. That is the story for the US. If not for 21 first half points by Dwayne Wade (my pick for Olympics MVP), I think Spain wins. With Kobe and LeBron on the bench with fouls, Wade, Chris Paul and Tayshaun Prince kept the US in the game, which in this case, means, kept them in the lead, even slightly.
Wade was ridiculous, hitting his first 7 shots and grabbing a few steals. The US hit 7 threes in the first half, another key that kept them hanging around. It was fortunate that the shots were falling, because they were unable to stop Spain. Carlos Navarro's floater just wouldn't miss, and he ran the S/R to perfection with Pau Gasol. Rudy Fernandez had an outstanding game as well for Espana, who also shot great from downtown and really took care of the ball, proving ClipperSteve's theory that the turnover number is the key to any Team USA game.
Spain dominated the US down low for stretches of this game. It seems funny to say that, but it's true. Fifteen offensive rebounds. I'm still not sure why Coach K never had the confidence to go with two bigs on the floor at the same time. One of the bigs, Boozer, and Michael Redd didn't play until there was less than a minute. But the Boozer one puzzles me. Again, I am puzzled why Boozer was even on this team. He just didn't see to be a good fit. Not a good defender, not a guy that really gets out and runs. They would have been better served with another big (after watching Gasol have his way tonight, I think Kendrick Perkins would have been a perfect. Pau is terrified of him). But since Boozer is on the team, it would have been wise to have try him out next to Bosh or Howard at some point, or try Howard and Bosh together. Oh well. While the rebounding advantage was in Spain's favor, it wasn't heavy.
LeBron had a quiet game, yet it was a very effective game when one looks at the numbers. 14 pts, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals. Melo and Paul each had 13 points, and Bosh grabbed 7 boards. Kobe had a few ill-advised shots as he is wont, but he was huge in the 4th qtr, scoring 13 points, including one on a four point play. His 4th qtr defense on Navarro was key. He finished the game with 6 assists,
Team USA shot 60% from the field. The zone was effective at times, but the Spanish defense overall was not. The US defense, was not so hot today. SPain was able to penetrate at will. I really think that a Battier or Posey type player, that can lock it down and hit shots would have been a good addition for the roster. Prince was great in that role, but maybe one more instead of Redd, who was seldom used anyway. But were it not for the US timely shooing, this game would have been lost. Despite the tight margin, the US outscored Spain in every quarter of this contest. And what a contest it was.
Down the stretch, the US just had too much talent. Too many hungry players who could make big shots. Too much fear of losing this game, which hurt them initially, but seemed to get them focused at the end. They didn't play great tonight, but they had enough to beat a Spanish team that did. I will continue to place a big premium on the steady PG play of the US. They only combined for 3 of the 13 US turnovers, whereas the wings, Kobe, LeBron and Wade, combined for 9.
Did I mention the officiating? Very spotty, and not just against the US. There is nothing I hate more than inconsistent officiating. In the first few games of the Olympics I was impressed with the fact that little things weren't called. But at one point in the first half, the whistles wouldn't stop blowing for both teams. Then, in the second half, Marc Gasol literally threw Bosh to the ground by his face with no whistle. Pau whined as usual. I don't usually root against players, but I really enjoyed seeing him lose. He is a whiner. Hey Pau, Kendrick Perkins.
I think I have covered everything, and I am tired. D Wade gets my vote for most outstanding player, with LeBron second, and Bosh and Paul tied for third. Dwight Howard was the biggest disappointment. Kobe, Kidd, Melo, Prince, Deron Williams (who graduated from the same high school as me in The Colony, TX) - all played very well. No way this team beats 92's team, though. I won't even debate it. No way.
Thanks for reading all of my Olympic recaps. I wrote them more for me than for the reader, anyway.