Tag: London Olympics

Chandler of the U.S. blocks the shot of Nigeria's Diogu during their men's preliminary round Group A basketball match at the Basketball Arena during the London 2012 Olympic Games

Tyson Chandler says USA going to break bad habits Lithuania exposed

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There were back cuts. There was poor transition defense. There were American defenders giving up position to gamble for a steal and being exposed.

There were a few reasons Team USA struggled with Lithuania on Saturday — ice cold shooting from three is at the top of the list — but for a team that prides itself on defense, Team USA didn’t play it well.

USA starting center Tyson Chandler owned up to that speaking with PBT from the Gillette Lounge in Procter & Gamble Family Home in London. The guy that is out there to help organize and backstop the USA’s defense said that the previous two games caught up to them against Lithuania.

“We had a down night,” Chandler said in an exclusive interview with ProBasketballTalk. “We got beat off the dribble way too much, and our execution was poor defensively, and our communication was poor. So it was one of those nights and we struggled offensively but we got to learn with a victory….

“We want to be able go for steals and do that while still being solid. You don’t want to gamble without reason… We played a couple of games where we were able to jump all over the passing lanes and a little bit of bad habits creep in. And then you play a game like Lithuania and those bad habits are exposed. But the great thing is they are exposed and we came away with a win. It was a learning thing for us. Now we go out and make the adjustments”

Chandler has not been able to backstop the American defense as much as hoped these Olympics (12 minutes per game) because Coach J has gone small a lot and because of foul trouble at times. Foul trouble in part because  FIBA officiating is… inconsistent. That’s a word we can use on a family blog. Inconsistent.

“It’s an adjustment, you adjust every game. You learn game by game, you just have to adjust…” Chandler said diplomatically of the officiating. “An athletes job is to try to adjust to the way the game is being called. It’s very important that while we are on the floor we keep our composure and that we represent our country in the correct fashion. Because it’s not just the image we put off for ourselves, it’s about representing our country.”

Chandler spoke a lot about representing his country and how much that mattered to him. Composure on the court and acting like grown men is certainly part of that. But the other part is winning.

Lithuania was just the first of some real tests for the USA coming up, starting with Argentina on Monday.

“We understand we are into the thick of things now, it really begins now,” Chandler said. “Argentina is going to be a tough game and after that it’s the medal round, so things are going to pick up and get more intense. This is what we have all been waiting for.”

Is there a pressure on the team to win gold? Heck yes. Anything short will be viewed as a failure. But Chandler tries not to look at it that way.

“You don’t feel the pressure to go out and win a gold or something like that, you feel the pressure to go out and represent your country in the correct fashion… We also know we have the ability to inspire the next generation. We’ve seen how the game of basketball has evolved since the 1992 Olympics when the dream team was assembled… a lot of the kids who were inspired by that are in our league today.”

Chandler also talked about wanting to inspire his young children. He was hanging out in the Procter & Gamble Family Home, on the day they were celebrating Olympic dads (which you can like on Facebook).

“We’re enjoying the festivities, and I’m looking forward to 10 years from now being able to break back out the footage and sharing with them what all of this meant,” Chandler said.

Especially if he can also break out a gold medal to show them.

Lithuania gives USA a real test, but LeBron passes it in 99-94 win

James of the U.S. goes in for a lay-up past Lithuania's Kleiza during their men's preliminary round Group A basketball match at the Basketball Arena during the London 2012 Olympic Games

There is a script for beating the USA, we talked about it before the Olympics: Pack the paint on defense and hope they miss threes, play good transition defense, don’t turn the ball over, and have a hot shooting night yourself.

Lithuania did almost all of that, playing their best game of the Olympics by far.

But there is no script for stopping LeBron James.

With the USA down USA 84-82 in the fourth, LeBron scored 9 of the USA’s final 17 points to lead the USA to a hard-fought 99-94 win. A win that keeps them undefeated (4-0) in Group A play and headed to the medal round.

For three and a half games LeBron had been a facilitator, a guy doing all the little things for Team USA. But when it was on the line for real LeBron reminded everyone he was the best player on the face of the earth. In the final minutes he hit a key three, threw down a dunk in transition, backed his man down in the paint and put up a pretty spin move — seven key, fast points that changed the tide of the game. He was clutch. He was everything his detractors said he wasn’t a year ago.

The USA coaching staff and players will spin this game as “it was good for us to be tested in group play, it helps us going forward.” I’m not totally on board with that. It might remind them they need to be focused every game, but Lithuania (and every team the USA plays from here on out) is good and if you let them get a foot in the door they will make it a game. A real game. The playground of the Nigeria game is long gone.

It was close because Lithuania played smart, played to the script and flat out executed against the USA better than they have all tournament.

On defense they switched every pick then the big man would slide back a step and dare the USA ball handler to shoot the three. The USA took the bait, especially in the first half, turning that big-on-small into isolation basketball and then settling for jumpers. In the first half the USA was 6-of-19 from three (31.7 percent) and shot 47.6 percent overall.

For the game, the USA was 10-of-33 from three (30.3 percent) and for the game shot 44.3 percent.

When the shots weren’t falling they adjusted in the second half and worked hard, making the extra pass and attacking the paint. It worked, the Americans drew fouls, but the USA was just 19-of-31 from the free throw line (61.3 percent). Kevin Love could not find his stroke, he was 3-of-8 from the stripe.

The USA is supposed to cover its off offensive nights with good defense, but they didn’t for much of this contest.

The USA did a terrible job on transition defense, allowing a slower Lithuanian team to get good looks pushing the ball. The USA also did a poor job switching — or whatever it was they were trying to do — on the pick and roll, allowing former NBA point guard Sarunas Jasikevicius to carve them up. Linas Kleiza had 25 points and outplayed the USA in the paint for much of the game.

And it was a game. Lithuania’s Achilles heel turned out to be turnovers — they had 23 of them. They struggled to enter the ball into the post late in the game, they made some unwise passes that led to USA fast breaks. It was a key difference.

LeBron James had 20 points for Team USA, along with Carmelo Anthony who also had 20. Kevin Durant had 16.

So the USA will spin this as “a wake up call” or some such thing, but in a short Olympic tournament (8 games at most) you shouldn’t need one.

What this shows is that when the outside shots are not falling, and when their pressure defense takes a night off or doesn’t work on experienced guards, the USA is vulnerable.

But despite all that the Americans may still win, because at the end of the day they still have the best player in the world on their team. And probably the next five or six on that list as well.

Harden says he was not crossed-over against Nigeria. You decide.

Olympics Day 6 - Basketball

During the often otherwise almost unwatchable Team USA demolition of Nigeria on Thursday, this happened:

James Harden got crossed. Broken ankles. Call it whatever you want.

Except Harden wouldn’t call it that at all. Trey Kirby of The Basketball Jones monitors players twitter accounts (so you don’t have to) and he found this exchange between Harden and the Knicks J.R. Smith.


Um, okay, James. Look, I’ll grant Harden that he slipped a little, but he slipped because he got crossed.

Watch the video. Decide for yourself.

I think you know my vote.

USA needs to forget about Nigeria, focus on Lithuania and gold

Kevin Love

Forget about it.

Or, for a New Yorker like Carmelo Anthony, fugeddaboutit.

That is what USA coach Mike Krzyzewski told his Nigerian counterpart to do with the game tape after Team USA’s historic win on Thursday (Coach K actually said “flush it”). But that is exactly what his team needs to do with that epic performance as well. Flush it. Fugeddaboutit about it and move on.

The only team that can beat the USA is the USA. They can trip and fall over their own overconfidence — and there are teams good enough to take advantage of any stumble. Time to put Nigeria and the 71 percent shooting behind them and keep their eye on the goal and the gold. The soft, summer vacation portion of the Olympics is over and from here on out the games harder and more serious for Team USA.

That starts with Lithuania on Saturday — a team that certainly is better than Nigeria and features some NBA talent (Linas Kleiza, Darius Songalia, Sarunas Jasikevicius and Jonas Valanciunas). However, Lithuania’s style of play (they lack foot speed) plays to the USA’s strengths.

The USA needs a win Saturday because they control their own destiny. They are the only undefeated team in Group A. With wins over Lithuania then Monday against Argentina the USA would secure the top spot in their Group A, setting up a very winnable first game of the medal round against likely Australia. (Group B will have Spain and Russia on top, they play Saturday to determine that order, then Brazil third. The Aussies should get the four spot unless they fall to host Great Brittan.)

Lithuania presents a couple challenges for the American. First, Kleiza is a good player who can put up points on the USA’s defense and Jasikevicius is a quality point guard. Actually, Lithuania is deep with guys that can score, they have a 10-man rotation of guys that play at high levels in Europe and can shoot the rock.

But Lithuania’s weaknesses play right into Team USA’s wheelhouse.

For one, Lithuania turns the ball over a lot — something Team USA will turn into flashy, energizing dunks on the other end. The other problem is that Lithuania’s defense in general — and particularly their pick-and-roll defense — has not been very good these Olympics. And that is what the USA likes to run.

The USA is going to put up points — not 156 points, they will not shoot 71 percent again. But it will be too many points for Lithuania to match.

The one Lithuanian I’m most interested in seeing is Valanciunas, the No. 5 pick of the Toronto Raptors last year who will join the NBA next season. Except I don’t know how much we will get to see him — he has averaged just 11 minutes a game so far these Olympics. He has 14 total points on 7-of-11 shooting, with eight rebounds and eight fouls. Not the kinds of numbers Raptors fans were hoping to see.

This should be another comfortable win for Team USA, while with the loss Lithuania appears headed for the four seed in Group B (and a date with Spain or Russia in the first game of the medal round).

That is, it should be a comfortable win if they forget about the last game.

Quote of the Day: Magic, Barkley on huge Team USA win

Lebron James,Kobe Bryant,  Andre Iguodala

“I want to congratulate the guys on their continued dominance in London. This is starting to look a lot like our 1992 Dream Team. I look forward to watching them continue to drive for that gold medal and bring it home for the USA.”

—Magic Johnson

“That’s probably how many points they’d beat the ’92 team by … if we played today.”

—Charles Barkley

That was the former Dream Teamers’ reactions to the USA’s 83 point thrashing of Nigeria on Thursday, via Marc Stein of ESPN. I’m personally pretty weary of comparing teams across generations, especially in this case, but I think it’s becoming clear that this Team USA could end up in the top 3 all time (you have to include the 1960 team that had Jerry West and Oscar Robertson in these conversations).

Of course, one stumble and this 2012 team falls way down to the other end of the list.