The USA came out and overwhelmed Slovenia at the start, shutting them down and converting the misses into easy buckets the other way. It was 12-2 USA before Slovenia had laced up their shoes.
Pretty much the same thing during the USA’s 50-15 run against Croatia during the second and third quarters in their first game of the FIBA World Championships.
The USA is using its superior athleticism in a pressure defense that so far nobody has come close to handling.
But they also have yet to really be tested. And when they are, it will be during the one-and-done phase of this tournament.
What the USA is doing well is defending the arc — the three-pointer is a bread-and-butter shot for most international teams and the USA is taking that away.
Slovenia tried to hit from deep but were 2 of 15 to start. Slovenia has the Suns Goran Dragic, but the USA forced him to shoot on the move — often going to his much weaker right — and the results were not pretty.
Even when Slovenia bigs stepped out to stretch the floor from deep, the USA contested well.
For the game, Slovenia shot 21 percent from three. They shot just 48 percent inside the arc as Tyson Chandler and Kevin Love liked the physical play inside and forced misses. It was pretty much the same against Croatia the day before.
And all those misses become the turnovers the USA fast breaks that the team thrives on. When the USA runs they can’t be beat.
But there were flashes of potential problems down the line. Slovenia got some dunks on pick-and-roll plays, on backdoor cuts where US defenders got lost. Lamar Odom had a number of those moments.
Slovenia didn’t have the players to take advantage of that, neither did Croatia. Neither will Brazil (the USA’s Monday game) or anyone else in Team USA’s group play. This is little more than exhibitions for them.
But at some point they will run into Argentina or Greece or Spain — teams with the players to exploit those weaknesses. Teams that move off the ball, that pass well, that run beautiful pick-and-roll. Greece can have fantastic ball movement and scored on the pick and roll in that game (they sandbagged that exhibition against the USA, don’t read into it).
Mike Krzyzewski and crew need to get Team USA focused on those other plays, the motion offense defense and the pick-and-roll defense during these group games. Because the USA will get tested in the tournament stage of this event, and if they fail then they will be coming home early and disappointed.