Team USA finished with a 5-0 record in group play and thus advanced to the knockout stage with the number one seed. Don’t let their perfect record fool you, as they were far from perfect during the first weeks of the Olympics. That’s not to say that they aren’t favored or don’t have the ability to win it all. However, yours truly must point out the flaws in Team USA’s game, namely on the defensive side of the floor.
This team is built around athletic ability and speed. The basic principle for this team is to pressure the ball, force turnovers, then take off to the races. All of this works great when the team is playing with intensity on defense. But as seen in the first half of the Argentina game and the entire Lithuania game, sometimes the focus on defense is lacking.
Luckily, Team USA is so good that they can completely struggle for a half and still tie their opponent. When they decide to hit the switch they can take things to another level that no team can match. They have officially entered the win-or-go-home zone so it’ll be interesting to see how they respond to the pressure. Let’s explore the factors for tonight’s game.
Frontcourt: Australia has two big men who have averaged double digits throughout the Olympics. Ingles (14.2) and Andersen (12.2) will find it tough to score against the superb shot blocking of the US men. Anthony Davis has shown that he will be the rookie to watch this year in the NBA. He’s shown a great ability to finish plays and also block shots with great timing.
Who can guard Kevin Durant on the Australian squad? Durant erupted for eight treys against Argentina. When he’s shooting like that, he’s basically unguardable.
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Backcourt: Spurs backup guard Patty Mills is putting on a show in these Olympics. He is averaging 20 points per game and hit a dramatic game winner against Russia. It seems that he can’t be stopped; however, Chris Paul and Westbrook would beg to differ. Team USA’s guards will surely be attached to Mills like a rambunctious kid at Disneyland is leashed to well meaning parents.
Keys to Victory:
Defense: Two things that the Americans can work on are defensive rotations and cutting off the lane. Patty Mills will have no problem slicing up the lane and scoring easy baskets. Team USA needs to do a better job of rotating and helping on defense. Coach K has noted this weakness in interviews and stated that the team needs to communicate better with one another on the defensive end.
Ease off on the Fouls: Team USA is averaging 21 fouls per game which is two more than their opponents. Fouls slow the game down and effectively nullify the USA’s speed advantage. It’s tough because the FIBA refs call games much tighter than the NBA; however, Team USA needs to adjust and play smart defense.
USA vs Australia
2:15 PM PST, August 8, 2012
Basketball Arena, London, England
TV: NBC Sports Channel
Australia Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Patty Mills
SG: Matthew DellaVedova
SF: Joe Ingles
PF: David Andersen
C: Aleks Maric
Key Reserves: SG Brad Newley