Tag: Team USA

Kevin Love

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


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.

The Inbounds: Saint Anthony and America’s war on isolation

Anthony of the U.S. smiles from the bench during his game against Nigeria at their men's preliminary round Group A basketball match at the Basketball Arena during the London 2012 Olympic Games

Welcome to The Inbounds, touching on a big idea of the day. It could be news, it could be history, it could be a tangent, it could be love. OK, it’s probably not love. Enjoy. Today, a bonus segment.

So Carmelo Anthony scored 37 points in an Olympic basketball game Thursday, and based on probability, you reacted in one of four ways ways as a God-fearing NBA fan.

1. You were excited and thrilled that Anthony put on such an amazing performance for your country and in awe of his ability to put the ball in the basketball with that kind of frequency.

2. You noted how despite the amount of criticism Anthony withstands and his relative stature in the NBA superstar tapestry that he’s still truly one of the best players in the world and you cannot understand why people forget that so often.

3. You are left in polite admiration but simultaneous outrage that he doesn’t play that way all the time.

4. Some combination of the two depending on if you’re a Knicks, Celtics, Heat fan or none of the above.

It’s a terrific wormhole to go down. Melo was able to do what he did because he was facing Nigeria. Anthony only put himself in that position because he’s surrounded by that much talent. It takes that kind of talent to put his ego in a place where he can play catch-and-shoot. Melo just had a hot night (that’s an understatement). What he did wasn’t all that different from what he does with the Knicks. You can literally interpret Anthony’s performance in the 156-73 win in group play however you would like. You have to say he played well and that you were impressed. From there, you can go any route you want.

But it’s the structure of how Anthony scored that intrigues. Catch-and-shoot. It makes sense, right? You have one of the world’s best shooters, an elite scorer, with a significant size advantage over his defender. Why on Earth would you not use him as a catch-and-shoot player when you have LeBron James and Chris Paul throwing the ball to him after collapsing the defense each time? On the Knicks, he’ll never have the luxury of anyone else drawing that kind of attention. So comparing his exploits with Team USA to anything he does with the Knicks is futile.

Except, it’s not. Not really.

Part of what has made the Knicks’ approach so confusing is that they’ve essentially gone against the overriding principle in so many superstar teams’ design. Take Boston, for example. Paul Pierce no longer has to run point, dribbling at the timeline, directing traffic before trying to slice past four guys. Ray Allen isn’t jab-stepping defenders back so he can rise and fire over them. Kevin Garnett isn’t running point forward. In Miami, Chris Bosh is an outlet scorer and offensive rebound tip-in machine. That’s his job. In L.A., Pau Gasol’s not having the ball go through him every time (though that one can be argued is a bad thing). The point is that one of the luxuries of having multiple superstars it the ability to put an elite player in a role player’s position and watch him destroy because he’s so much better at that singular talent than the average replacement player.

And for Anthony, his VORP as a spot-up shooter is through the roof.

But of course, the Knicks not only can’t use him that way, but they eliminated any situation where he could be.

When Anthony returned after Linsanity (yep, we’re back to him again), there was a possibility for this all to work out. Anthony needed to adopt the role of a superior, obscenely-rich-man’s Shawn Marion in Mike D’Antoni’s Suns. By being the outlet shooter off the drive and kick on the baseline, by being the weakside off-ball cutter, but being the spot-up guy in transition, Anthony could not only keep but raise his scoring production while not having to run isolation sets every single time. With Amar’e Stoudemire running the pick and roll or Chandler doing the same, there would be lanes and opportunities. Instead, be it Melo’s preference or D’Antoni’s design, Anthony wound up drifting on the perimeter. He wasn’t just a spot-up shooter, he was scenery.

That dream of him working in an offensive set to move, catch, and score, is dead, replaced by the dystopian Woodson Isolation nightmare that awaits Knicks fans next year. But Team USA provides an alternative, not just for Anthony, but for Kobe Bryant, for LeBron James, for Kevin Durant, for Russell Westbrook. The shame is that the quality of the surrounding talent convinces them that the only reason this works is because they’re surrounded by that much talent. They can’t comprehend the same style working for them within the constructs of their teams. Whether that’s overconfidence in their abilities or a lack of confidence in the ability of others is inconsequential. The fact remains that these players will embrace roles where they do role player functions with superstar ability, and dominate the greatest players in the world. And instead of drawing on that experience and trying to replicate it, they will instead abandon it for some sort of 82-game “Quick and the Dead” impression where they duel one on one with everything like this is Teen Wolf.

For a day, for these few weeks, really, Anthony’s a saint. He’s a basketball icon teaching the world about how to play for it. Wait for your open shot, be ready, move without the ball, catch, rise, fire. And Team USA is showing one another and the world that there’s a better way than getting the ball at the perimeter, dribbling for fifteen seconds, and then hoisting up a jumper.

In twelve weeks, they’ll return to doing the same things, but for now, they play, maybe not the right way, but the best way, and they work hard to make things easy for one another. What’s amazing isn’t that someone as talented as Anthony did what he did on Thursday. It’s that Anthony and the rest of Team USA will forget the lesson learned by the star players who played as role players and made things easy for themselves.

You can be all things among your friends, but in the end, you cannot get away from who you are, for better or worse. It’s neither good nor bad. It simply is.

Where was Anthony Davis in the first half? He forgot his jersey.

US guard Kobe Bryant (L) chats with US c

Anthony Davis is Team USA’s human victory cigar — when he enters the game you know it is over.

He could have entered into the game about five minutes into the USA’s record setting rout of Nigeria on Thursday. Actually, coach Mike Krzyzewski called his number in the first half…

And he couldn’t go in because he forgot his jersey under his sweats.

Davis ran up to the scorer’s table, but had to come back and sit down when he realized he never put it on after warm-ups.

The rest of the American bench simply could not stop laughing — Kevin Love and LeBron James were cracking up. Even Krzyzewski almost thought it was funny. Almost. Davis did play much of the second half.

On Friday, Love was calling out Davis for it on twitter.

NBC analyst, former Team USA player and current Sixers coach Doug Collins suggested that maybe more veteran USA players hid his jersey, that it was something his teams used to do to rookies.

Maybe. But either way it was pretty damn funny.

USA 156, Nigeria 73: Is that enough of a rout for you?

Anthony of the U.S. smiles from the bench during his game against Nigeria at their men's preliminary round Group A basketball match at the Basketball Arena during the London 2012 Olympic Games

USA Coach Mike Krzyzewski said after Tuesday’s game he was not trying to send a message to his players. He said that he didn’t mass substitute in the second unit then start the bench guys in the second half of the win over Tunisia as a message to USA starters after a lackadaisical opening few minutes the other day. He had planned to do it anyway.

Right. Of course he planned out this wild break from pattern. Why would you even question that?

Either way, it worked.

Team USA came out firing and focused and set a bushel of records on their way to destroying Nigeria 156-73 on Thursday in London. And I’m not sure it was that close.

Is this enough of a rout to make you happy? And by you, I mean people like me who said the USA didn’t earn a lot of style points when they beat Tunisia because of the sloppy start. Thursday’s win was nothing but style points.

Lets talk records:

• The 156 points is the most any team has ever scored in a single game in the history of the Olympics. The old record had been 138. It goes without saying that is more than the Dream Team ever scored in a game, in case you feel like starting that silly debate again.

• Carmelo Anthony scored 37 points by himself, that is more points than any American ever in a single Olympic game, besting Stephon Marbury’s old record of 31. Part of the reason for this is that Nigeria just did not close out on ‘Melo at the three point line, they let him get good look after good look and he hit 10 of 12 from beyond the arc.

• This was the largest American margin of victory ever, at 83. The old record had been 68.

• The USA made 29 threes (on 46 shots), the old record had been 13 threes in a game. The 46 attempts is also a record.

• The USA shot 71.1 percent for the game, besting the old best ever of 68 percent by team USA.

That enough of a rout for you?

It was a slaughter from the opening tip — the USA started the game on a 13-0 run and put up 49 points in the first quarter on 82 percent shooting while hitting 11-of-14 threes. They just kept pouring it on from there, it was playground basketball. And the foot never comes off the gas because when Coach K empties the bench he still puts in All-Stars.

Nigeria helped this out by trying to play an up-tempo game as is their style — they rushed shots early in the clock. Thing is, they are bad shooters. Nigeria shot 41.2 percent on the night and was 6-of-27 from three. Which is actually better than the 29 percent they shot coming into the game. Nigeria also had 25 turnovers.

All of that fueled the USA running game. Which is what they do best.

Every American scored. After ‘Melo, the next three on the USA’s scoring list were Russell Westbrook with 21, Kobe Bryant with 16 (14 of those in the first quarter as he came out trying to establish the tone) and Kevin Love with 15.

Former NBA player Ike Diogu had 27 for Nigeria.

The USA is now 3-0 in group play. Next up for the Americans is Lithuania on Saturday. Lithuania is certainly a more talented team and a better test for the USA than Nigeria, but they are a slow-the-pace grinding team that will struggle to match the USA’s speed and athleticism.

But I promise it will be closer than this. The USA will not shoot 71 percent from the floor again.