Tag: Team USA

Olympics Day 6 - Basketball

Russia wins best game of Olympics (so far), 75-74 over Brazil

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This game mattered to Team USA — the winner likely ends up the No. 2 seed in Group B, which puts them on the USA’s side of the bracket in the medal round and could set up a semi-final game against the winner.

But that’s not why we watched it. Brazil and Russia put on the best game of the Olympics Thursday afternoon.

It was a game that needed soon-to-be Timberwolves guard Alexey Shved knocking down a contested three with :30 seconds left to tie the game.

He was answered by Brazil’s amazing point guard Marcelinho Huertas who, with time running down, drove the lane (away from a Nene pick) and hit a ridiculous scoop under the arm of the rotating big, off the glass with English layup to put Brazil up 74-72 with just 6 seconds left.

That gave Russia’s coach Dave Blatt time to draw up one last play. He had Vitaly Fridzon set a screen at the free throw line then flare off a screen from the Russian center to the short-side corner and it worked — Fridzon was open, caught the ball, turned and shot while the falling Brazilian defender took out his feet mid-air.

Didn’t matter — nothing but net.

And no foul call. Brazil got one last shot but Leandro Barbosa missed and Russia won 75-74 to improve to 3-0 in pool play.

Another soon-to-be Timberwolf big Andrei Kirilenko led Russia with 19. Barbosa (a soon-to-be Laker?) led Brazil with 16 points.

Brazil had won but not looked impressive doing so up until this game, but this was by far their best effort of the tournament.

But now a USA/Russia semi-finals match in the medal round is possible — and that is no gimme for the USA. Shved gives Russia good guard play (they will not constantly turn the ball over) and they have size and skill up front with Kirilenko and Timofey Mozgov.

That is, unless Russia can hit some other key shots and knock off Spain in group play, completely upsetting the apple cart. Or, maybe beet cart, in this case. Win Group B and you can avoid Team USA all the way to the Gold Medal game.

Preview: Nigeria next very small bump in the road for USA

Ike Diogu of Nigeria celebrates after de
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Nigeria — Team USA’s opponent in the late game Thursday — is better than Tunisia, the USA’s last opponent.


Nigeria beat Tunisia by four points. Vegas odds makers have the USA as 42 point favorites, which is closer than predicted against Tunisia (it was a 54 points spread, a number the Tunisians covered). The two meet in a game that starts at 5:15 ET (live on the NBC Sports Network).

Nigeria isn’t going to put up much of a test for the Americans, who should run away and hide early. The USA is vastly superior at every position on the floor and this should be another chance for Mike Krzyzewski to get into his bench and give guys a lot of run. As he did the last game. Do look for Kevin Durant — who leads Team USA in scoring (17.5 per game) and rebounding (9.5) to get his, but anyone on the USA roster can put up numbers in this one.

Nigeria has two players that will be familiar to NBA fans. One is former Clippers lottery pick Al-Farouq Aminu, who was traded to New Orleans in the Chris Paul deal (and is now teammates with Team USA’s Anthony Davis). Aminu averaged 6 points and 4.7 rebounds a game last season, shot just 41 percent, doesn’t have great handles for a wing and generally shows promise but is not making NBA fans think he will live up to it.

Aminu has averaged 11 points and 10 rebounds through two games in London. Expect the USA to pressure him when he has the ball to get it out of his hands.

The leading scorer and rebounder for Nigeria has been former NBA player Ike Diogu, who has averaged 12.5 points and 10 rebounds a game. Diogu is an undersized (6’8”) forward who couldn’t get off the Spurs bench last season. He has some tools and is using the Olympics as a showcase to get a new NBA contract. That said, he is not a guy who can really exploit the “undersized” USA inside. Tyson Chandler and Kevin Love should have their way with him.

Look for the USA to experiment with lineups and throw a lot of lobs to Anthony Davis. There isn’t a lot else to do.

This should be another game that is only close if the USA doesn’t take it seriously. Things will get more challenging with Lithuania then Argentina next on the schedule, but for today this should be a stroll through Hyde Park for Team USA.

Tyson Chandler aggravated dislocated finger but he’s fine


Tyson Chandler was sitting on the bench during the second half of the USA’s rout of Tunisia with ice on his hand. That raised some eyebrows.

Chandler, the only true center on the Team USA roster, aggravated an old injury, he told Jared Zwerling of ESPNNewYork.com.

Tyson Chandler told me today his “left hand” injury vs. Tunisia was due to a dislocated finger (suffered before Team USA) that swelled up.

What does this mean in the big picture?


Chandler is expected to play Thursday against Nigeria, and at most Mike Krzyzewski will keep his minutes down to have him ready for a bigger side in Lithuania on Thursday.

But this is nothing serious.

The Inbounds: Team USA and an outlet pass to the future of superstar team-ups

File photo of U.S. basketball Chairman Colangelo and the 2012 U.S. Olympic men's basketball team posing in Las Vegas

Just kidding. I’m not actually going to give you the top five possible superstar teamups from these Olympics. No slideshows or top ten lists, though I have written those before and they serve a purpose. But I did want to write about that dynamic, where it comes from, and what it means.

In Team USA’s second-half vehicular manslaughter of Tunisia on Tuesday, at one point Kevin Love spit one of those outlet passes that he is so incredible at. The two-hand cannonball to the sideline at half-court to Russell Westbrook who caught it in stride, sped past three defenders, took the foul, and scored. It was an amazing display of what Team USA’s younger stars bring to the table, and just a really spectacular basketball play.

And my first thought was to wonder if it was a sign of things to come.

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh have all openly talked about Beijing in 2008 being a moment where they all realized the possibility of playing together. Deron Williams has mentioned the same about Dwight Howard at the same time. Those are two examples, but it’s clear that when these guys get together and experience what it’s like to play with a team full of guys with equal or superior talent, how much fun it is. And how big their starpower can get.

So when Love and Westbrook make a play like that, the kind that they used to make at UCLA, where they were roommates, you have to wonder if the same conversation is being held.

Before we go down this road, i want to make sure you know that a. I’m not insane and b. this isn’t rampant speculation that this is ever going to happen. Russell Westbrook just got done finishing in the NBA Finals where his team was within a few bad quarters of winning the NBA title. He’s locked into a five-year deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder who just gave him a huge extension. Kevin Love may have his problems with the Timberwolves, but he does have a three-year guaranteed deal and he’s a part of one of the up and coming teams in the league with a sensational point guard. My point here is not “COULD KEVIN LOVE AND RUSSELL WESTBROOK BE CONSPIRING TO PLAY TOGETHER IN 2016?” because that makes beyond zero sense.

But you have to look at down the line, at the career arc of a lot of players who we thought would always be one place and then landed in another. It happens all the time in this league. Steve Nash is a Laker, for crying out loud. Dwight Howard is about to be… something else. And there are plenty of reasons to think that the smart, sensible option for both Love and Wetbrook will be to stay put, and neither leave in free agency nor push for a trade. But we’ve seen logic lose too often in this league not to wonder. Westbrook is already part of a superstar trio that loves playing together, and they’re all in the Olympics together this year. The only way it happens is if things were to go seriously awry and Westbrook were to think about this experience and what it could mean for him elsewhere. Or if he were to bring Love to the Thunder which in no way seems possible with the CBA.

And that’s the danger inherent in the Olympics, for NBA teams, now. But it’s not just the Olympics. It’s All-Star Weekend and weddings and parties, and anytime that these players get together, there’s talk of a realignment of their careers to run parallel and under the same flag. This is the new NBA world we live in, molded by branding, exposure, markets, and “families” managed by large representation groups. “The Decision” is supposedly the start of this, but it dates back to Boston’s collection of the Big 3. This is not a wholly recent trend and the potential has been there for years. LeBron, Wade, and Bosh were just the first bold enough to go out and put it to its absolute limit. And seeing the success they’re undergoing? The NBA title, an improving image, a rehabilitated public persona, and a huge international influence? That’s only going to make it more attractive.

Some of these are just pipe dreams. Chris Paul toasted to Melo, Amar’e, and he in New York, and Paul’s running the floor for Lob City. Amar’e Stoudemire mentioned Tony Parker at a Broadway show the night before he signed with the Knicks, and Parker’s not going anywhere for San Antonio. And again, there’s very little reason to believe Westbrook and Love will be playing anywhere else in five to six years. But you have to wonder if the idea is there, considering Westbrook, Derrick Rose, and Love work out in the summers, and Westbrook and Love have been playing together for most of their lives. Hey, Love’s even said on record that they’ve talked about it. It doesn’t take much to say that Westbrook and Love are closer than LeBron James and Wade are, or were. Friendship doesn’t mean they’re going to. It means that there’s always that possibility.

Maybe the bigger point here is that this is what I first thought of when Love jetted that outlet pass to Westbrook. How well they fit. Could they play for the Lakers, when they inevitably restock? The idea of the Lakers just landing those two outright isn’t pleasant for the idea of competitive balance, but it fits with everything we know about the history of the league. That’s where my brain went, though. Not to how amazing this Team USA is with the kind of talent it’s able to put on the floor together at all times, but about how every interaction could spell enormous consequences (Note: meme’d) for the NBA. We’re living in some sort of weird world where players play for teams, but simultaneously always exist as free agents given the power of players to force their way out to the teams they want at this point.

It’s exciting, and scary, and dangerous, and even if Love and Westbrook never play a second together, this is still the world we’re living in, where if one player’s great and another player’s great and they can stand each other at all, you have to wonder not just what it would be like… but when and how? The impossible is possible now, and very few stars shine on their own.

Video: If nothing else, Anthony Davis can throw down dunks

Davis of the U.S. dunks against Tunisia during their men's preliminary round Group A basketball match at the Basketball Arena during the London 2012 Olympic Games

Maybe Anthony Davis can be a franchise player — the Tim Duncan or Kevin Garnett of a new generation. Maybe he will be something less than that. We’re a long way from finding that out.

What we do know — he can throw down some ally-oop dunks.

We kind of knew that from his time at Kentucky, but with Team USA he’s doing a lot of it. Davis isn’t playing until the game is decided — he didn’t enter against Tunisia until Kevin Love’s fluke and minor knee injury. By the time he did Tunisia’s defense (such as it was) had broken down and the USA was doing whatever it wanted.

And what guys wanted to do was throw lobs to Davis. And if nothing else, he can finish.