Tag: Mike Krzyzweski

Durant, Team USA level Lithuanian challenge, advance to FIBA Finals


Hey, the good news is that Lithuania was right. Team USA probably isn’t invincible.

Kevin Durant in this tournament, though? Yeah, he’s pretty close to it.

Durant scored 38 points in an 88-74 win over LIthuania, as Team USA advanced to the FIBA World Championship Finals. Durant wound up 14-25 from the floor, despite every attempt made by Lithuania to stop him. They tried man. They tried zone. They tried help. They tried face-guarding. Nothing worked. Durant simply owned them as you would expect from someone who bombed 38 points in FIBA play. We’ve already had several “coming out parties” for Durant. He’s already arrived. But this game will certainly be added to his legacy as a sign of the greatness we all fully predict will come from him.

Meanwhile, Lithuania had almost no opportunity to respond. Their red-hot shooting against Argentina bottomed into nothingness (38% from the field) under a stifling USA defense that will not get the pub it deserves because, well, Durant dropped 38. Lithuania’s star, Linas Kleiza, managed just 4 points on 1-11 shooting, after Andre Iguodala decided to lock down on him and completely shut him off. Lithuania hung without getting blown out of the building, in part thanks to Team USA’s latest bout of poor three point shooting (32% from the arc).

Derrick Rose was benched the entire fourth quarter for USA after an unimpressive showing, forcing shots and looking erratic. There’s talk that his play may have caused Coach K to abandon his faith in Chicago’s dynamic point guard, but that’s probably premature, considering the wide variance in decisions from one game to the next from the Hall of Fame coach.

Today was Lamar Odom’s big game, as the Laker forward finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks and a steal. Odom’s been is usual space cadet self against most of the rest of the world, but his productions is still trickling in, and against a smaller Lithuania team, he flourished, bullied, and busted his way through.

USA will play the winner of the other Semifinal today, when Serbia faces host nation Turkey. If you’re looking for the matchup everyone wants, it’s Turkey vs. USA., as Turkey has been downright dominant in this tournament (in their own right), with the Bucks’ Ersan Ilyasova and the Suns’ Hedo Turkoglu both making impact. Serbia is no slouch, though, after downing the arguable favorite in Spain in a (very) minor shocker.

As Durant said he would on Twitter, Durant wrote “9-11-1” in memory of those who were affected by the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks. In an era where many are exploiting the tragedy for personal self-aggrandizement, once again it’s Durant showing a more humble, more inspiring way of showcasing the better parts of humanity. The kid is human, and isn’t too good to be true. And he’s not invincible. But today he certainly seemed like it.

Just ask Lithuania.


Mike Krzyzewski not buying that '72 USA Olympic loss to Russia was "fair"


Thumbnail image for Krzyzewski.jpgEither Mike Krzyzewski forgot, or he took a little dig at his Russian counterpart. Smart money is on the latter.

Yesterday, Russian coach David Blatt said that the controversial ending of the 1972 Olympics USA v. Russia gold medal game was “fair.” That after Russia — playing the game in then Eastern Bloc Munich — was given three chances at a final play due to referee and clock malfunctions.

Coach K told Chris Sheridan of ESPN:

“He’s a Russian,” Krzyzewski said of Blatt, who actually holds dual American and Israeli citizenship…

“You know, he coaches the Russian team, so he probably has that viewpoint, and his eyes are clearer now because there are no tears in them,” Krzyzewski said.

Blatt was born in the United States, grew up in the Boston area as a Celtics fan, and played at Princeton. He’s American, with American citizenship (as well as Israeli citizenship, and it is that nation he currently calls home). He has coached all over the world, including Russia, but he is an American.

So Coach K took a little dig. Other guys with USA basketball are not as forgiving of those times.

NBA executive Mike Bantom, who played for that U.S. team, says the issue could be debated, but “if you lived it, and you were there, you know that it was wrong.”

And that was diplomatic. Off the record, the guys from that team still are pretty pissed about how that game ended. And their silver medals still sit unclaimed 38 years later as evidence.

The USA plays Russia Thursday at the FIBA World Championships. If you think 1972 is motivation, remember that not one member of Team USA was born when that game was played.

USA Basketball remains unimpressive, undefeated with 92-57 win over Tunisia


Kryzewski_USA.jpgOnly USA basketball can win a game by 35 points and not impress doing it.

But that was the case with the USA’s 92-57 win over Tunisia. The USA exits FIBA World Championship pool play 5-0 and is now off until Monday when it will take on Angola in the round of 16 — the first of the one-and-done knockout rounds.

Undefeated or not, the USA did not impress Thursday. If this were a high school team, their next practice would be filled with running suicides. Then, while the team stood bent over gasping for air on the baseline with hands grabbing shorts, Coach K would walk out to the free throw line, try to find the words, just shake his head and say “again” then blow his whistle.

The issues were really in the first half, when the USA’s recent trends of a stagnant half-court offense, questionable shot selections and turnovers plagued them. The USA took a lot of threes early in the clock and went 0-8 from deep to start. The offense was listless at best. A fired up Tunisian team was playing its best and they hung around. The score was 19-13 USA after one and 39-33 at the half.

The USA has become dependant on their pressure defense to create turnovers and easy transition basket. Which is fine, but there is no steady Plan B to fall back on. When a team like Tunisia comes in and can withstand the pressure without sloppy turnovers, the USA starts to struggle to score.

In the first half, Kevin Durant was the exception, scoring 9 of the USA’s first 11 points on his way to 14 points.

Another issue — Tunisia had 20 offensive rebounds in this game. That
would be 38 percent of their missed shots where they got a second
chance. Rebounding is about desire, and the fact the Tunisia got the
boards talks to the focus and motivation Team USA had for this one.

The second half was more traditional USA blowout, with the defense forcing turnovers and an open floor for the USA’s superior athletes to run wild.

Eric Gordon looked very good for the USA, dropping 21 points. He has been a bit spotty after a very strong opening game (and training camp) for USA basketball, but he was back for a half against Tunisia. Russell Westbrook added 14 and Steph Curry had 13, as the USA bench guards had a good day.

The USA has three days of practices now to right the offensive ship. Then they get a very winnable game against Angola on Monday. But after that it’s going to get tough — three games from a gold medal and it could be Spain followed by other top teams like Argentina and Turkey.

If the USA plays in those games like it did in the first half against Tunisia, it will not be undefeated any more.

USA crushes Greece in meaningless final exhibition game

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for USA_Logo.jpgYou can read about as much into the USA win over Greece Wednesday as you can the final NFL exhibition game of the season.

All 12 USA players saw the court in the first half. Greece didn’t even suit up its two best big men. Because these teams could meet in games that really matter — such as the FIBA World Championship finals — nobody was running any special plays.

That said, they USA would love to meet up with Greece in the finals as the Americans are clearly superior athletically, and in just about every other way, as evidenced by the 87-59 win. In a one-game for the crown situation anything can happen, but you have to like the American’s odds if these two meet again.

A few quick thoughts:

* Some real grab-bag rotations from Coach K today. Looked like Phil Jackson in January, just throwing some crap out there to see what happens, and what works, knowing he can win the game anyway.

* Team USA’s pressure defense (even in the half court) really creates a lot of turnovers and missed shots, even against pretty good teams. Experienced guards or no, that kind of athleticism is disruptive. If they USA ever turns that off for a game, they are in trouble.

* The USA wants to run, and you can expect to keep seeing other teams with the hip check foul at midcourt to slow them down. Pretty standard play in international ball.

* Derrick Rose is going to have some huge games for Team USA in Turkey. 

* Casual fans may not know the Clippers Eric Gordon, but you can see why Mike Krzyzewski was smart to keep him. He dropped 18 points and had four hits from beyond the arc. The guy can flat out ball and is made for the FIBA game.

* I like Greek center Kostas Tsartsaris, guy played smart and within himself. He (and Greece) recognized the mismatch he was against Lamar Odom and exploited it with the pick-and-roll.

* The USA starts play in the FIBA World Championships Saturday against Croatia. Check out the official FIBA site for the tournament for all the details (and we’ll have more details here coming up).

* Also, FIBA has a Facebook app where your profile pic can be your name on a USA Basketball (or any other country you wish, traitor) jersey. 

Who should be the last cut for Team USA?


Team USA right now is a basketball version of The Amazing Race. Thirteen players set out on the same flight for Madrid, Spain, where they had to complete tasks against Lithuania and Spain. Having successfully finished those, it is on to Greece where a new task awaits them.


In Greece, somebody is going to be last to the mat. Phil is going to be standing there with Mike Krzyzewski and some guy dressed like Socrates who welcomes them to Greece. Then it happens. “I’m sorry, you’re the last player to arrive. I’m sorry to tell you, you have been eliminated from Team USA.”


There are 13 players on the Team USA roster, only 12 can go to the World Championships. There is one more very hard cut to make.


Friday, the smart money said Russell Westbrook and his Mohawk were headed back to the States. Then the USA looked sluggish against Lithuania and it was Westbrook’s speed and game that pushed the USA back to a tempo it liked. The USA won because of him. Hard to cut him.


Stephen Curry has played sparing minutes since turning an ankle, maybe he goes. Except that he is the best pure shooter on the squad. Some team is going to pack the 2-3 zone down against the USA and dare them to win with jumpers (actually, a lot of teams are) and you’re going to want your best shooter around.


Maybe Eric Gordon goes. Except he has done nothing but impress. He can shoot the three and he is the strongest guard penetrating the lane behind Chauncey Billups (Derrick Rose can take the physicality, too, but Gordon is a physical beast). The coaching staff loves him, those guys almost never get cut.


Some have suggested Kevin Love goes, but that is lunacy. First, you need him along the already-thin USA front line. His minutes have been down after he got kicked in the calf a few games back, but this is a big man who can rebound, hit the midrange and is the best outlet passer on a team that wants to run. You do not cut him. The same way you can’t cut Tyson Chandler and were reluctant to let JaVale McGee go.


The problem for Krzyzewski is that there are no good options – anyone you cut hurts you in some way. Despite his great showing against Lithuania it could still be Westbrook. He might be my choice still – what he brings pushing the pace is fantastic but may be a skill most easily duplicated. Which may not seem fair. But the game isn’t always fair. This is Amazing Race – you are always just one bad taxi driver away from going home.