Team USA: Defensive pressure and bombing threes

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Thumbnail image for USA_Logo.jpgA couple days into the Team USA practices in New York — and with tip-off of the World Basketball Classic tomorrow at Radio City Music Hall — here are two things becoming clear about this team:

They are going to use a lot of pressure defenses, and they are going to bomb threes.

The defensive pressure thing is nothing new — the USA has used that consistently under Mike Krzyzewski. It also makes a ton of sense. The USA has the best athletes in international ball so use that to put pressure on opposing ball handlers, force turnovers then convert those into transition points.

This younger team should be able to run like the wind — even bigs like JaVale McGee, Lamar Odom and Jeff Green can run the floor well. But running is always based on defense — you can’t run well taking the ball out of the basket. Creating turnovers is part of that, Kevin Love crashing the boards then whipping outlet passes down court is another part.

Then there is the shooting — with a less skilled team inside look for this USA team to love the three. And nearly every player outside Tyson Chandler and McGee can hit the three. Love will drop threes, as will Odom and just about every wing and guard. Kevin Durant has seemingly unlimited range.

But teams that live by the three can die by the three. According to NBA.com, Wednesday Team USA was scrimmaging against a college All-Star team, gave up an 8-0 run because Team USA went cold from three for a stretch. Better teams at the FIBA World Championships could do worse damage to Team USA in a cold streak like that.

One other note, Rajon Rondo missed practice due to a death in the family, but he is expected to return to the team Thursday. Danny Granger missed practice as well after dislocating his ring finger yesterday, and he may return in the coming days but no timetable has been set.

Harrison Barnes banks in game-winning, buzzer-beating 3-pointer (video)

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With the shot clock off in the fourth quarter and the game tied, Grizzlies big JaMychal Green put back Tyreke Evans‘ miss with a clutch flush. There’s a very fine line between ensuring the last shot and leaving time for an offensive rebound, and Memphis threated it almost perfectly.

Emphasis on “almost.”

The Grizzlies left the Mavericks 0.5 seconds, which Harrison Barnes used to bank in a 3-pointer – off a pinpoint bounce pass by Dennis Smith Jr. – to give Dallas a 95-94 win.

Heat snap Celtics’ 16-game winning streak

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky
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The Celtics didn’t have another comeback in them.

After overcoming a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit against the Mavericks on Monday to extend its winning streak to 16 games, Boston lost to the Heat tonight, 104-98. The streak ends as the NBA’s longest since the Hawks won 19 straight during the 2014-15 season.

The Celtics trailed Miami by 16 in the fourth quarter then cut the deficit to only one with three minutes left. But Dion Waiters hit back-to-back 3-pointers, helping the Heat pull away.

Goran Dragic (27 points) and Waiters (26 points) led Miami, which needed a reason to feel good after losing three of four to fall to 7-9.

The Celtics, on the other hand, still have a four-game cushion over the rest of the Eastern Conference. This might help them regain focus.

Serge Ibaka gets dunked on by Enes Kanter, hit in face by ball (video)

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Is Enes Kanter mad Serge Ibaka rifted with his family?

(No, not this family. That family.)

LeBron James blows wide-open dunk (video)

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J.R. Smith (slightly out of context): “We don’t start paying attention until after All-Star break.”