Argentina is in some way a better version of the Lithuanian team that gave the USA trouble on Saturday — more talented but with that same experienced veteran savvy that exposed the American’s mistakes.
But that’s really what Monday is about — has the USA learned from its mistakes as it heads to the medal round? Team USA faces Argentina in the final game of Group A play, starting at 5:15 Eastern Monday.
It’s not really about this game for Team USA — Argentina would need to beat the Americans by 110 points to win Group A. Team USA is the top seed heading into the medal round. But Argentina can be the two-seed with a win (beating out France because the tie breaker is total point differential and they are 65 points ahead in that category).
Argentina will be the more desperate side, but still it’s not about Argentina. It’s about team USA. It’s about them executing better, particularly on defense. It’s about them playing as one.
“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,” Tyson Chandler told ProBasketballTalk. “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.”
Team USA had that same kind of game against Argentina in a tune-up to the Olympics. To open the game Kevin Durant was knocking down threes (he finished with 27 points) and Team USA started out 7-of-7 from the field. The USA had 13 fast break points in the first half. They overwhelmed Argentina and had a double-digit lead minutes into the game.
But Argentina kept moving the ball and stuck with their game plan to grind the game down to a crawl. It worked. They got back on defense to take away the easy fast break points that fuels Team USA. Argentina packed the paint on defense, went under picks and dared the USA to shoot jumpers. The Americans shot better than they did against Lithuania (31 percent on Saturday, nearly 39 percent against Argentina) but it wasn’t enough.
The USA would make a run, Argentina would grind it down — all the way down to a four-point USA lead inside of three minutes left in the game.
No team has knocked off the USA yet and no team will without some help from the Americans. They have to be off on defense and missing their outside shots.
But the formula to beat the USA is out there and Argentina will be the latest to use it. We’ll see if the Americans have learned their lessons from Lithuania about how to avoid it.
Damn. This is just a thing of beauty.
Lonzo Ball and Zion Williams have a connection on the court and the Grizzlies got a look at it up close and personal Monday.
NBA TV has another angle
In a must-win game for 0-2 New Orleans, Zion played more in the first half than we have seen recently, but he was still under 10 minutes total. He had 11 points on 5-of-11 shooting, leading an energized Pelicans team that led by seven at the half.
Dennis Schroder was not in uniform when Oklahoma City lost to Denver Monday. He wasn’t even in Orlando.
Schroder left the bubble to be with his wife for the birth of his child, something the team knew was coming but came up suddenly Monday morning, coach Billy Donovan said pregame (reporting from ESPN’s Dave McMenamin inside the bubble).
“I’m not gonna leave my wife by herself while she’s having a second baby,” Schroder said when he talked about this with reporters previously. “(Dennis) Jr. is still 17 months old, so I’m for sure gonna go there and support her and try as much as I can to be there for my family.”
Congratulations to the Schroder family, we hope everyone is happy and healthy.
The Thunder will miss Schroder while he’s gone. He is a Sixth Man of the Year candidate averaging 19 points per game while shooting 38.1% from three. The Thunder are at their most dangerous when Schroder is paired with Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a rotation that we will not see for a while.
The first round of the playoffs starts Aug. 17. Schroder can return to the team, the question is how long he will be in quarantine when he does. If Schroeder has a negative coronavirus test for seven consecutive days before his return, he will be in quarantine for four days. If he does not get tested, or if he exposes himself to the virus unnecessarily while outside the bubble — for example, picking up wings from a strip club for dinner — he will have a 10-day quarantine.
The Thunder could use him for what will be a tight first-round playoff series in a very balanced West. Schroder may or may not be there, he has higher priorities right now.
The Oklahoma City Thunder – like all NBA teams (minus a few individuals) – kneeled during the national anthem.
That powerful protest calls attention to racism, particularly through police brutality. It is highly patriotic to work toward ending those shameful practices. Though some have distorted the underlying message, the protests have largely worked. In the years since Colin Kaepernick first kneeled, Americans have developed a heightened sensitivity to racism and police brutality.
Of course, there are still many opponents of anthem kneeling. The demonstration causes a visceral reaction (which is also why it has been so effective). At this point, it’s hard to stand out among the critics of anthem kneeling who keep making the same, tired arguments.
Oklahoma state representative Sean Roberts found a way.
Roberts, via Oklahoma’s News 4:
“By kneeling during the playing of the national anthem, the NBA and its players are showing disrespect to the American flag and all it stands for. This anti-patriotic act makes clear the NBA’s support of the Black Lives Matter group and its goal of defunding our nation’s police, its ties to Marxism and its efforts to destroy nuclear families.
If the Oklahoma City Thunder leadership and players follow the current trend of the NBA by kneeling during the national anthem prior to Saturday’s game, perhaps we need to reexamine the significant tax benefits the State of Oklahoma granted the Oklahoma City Thunder organization when they came to Oklahoma. Through the Quality Jobs Act, the Thunder is still under contract to receive these tax breaks from our state until 2024.
Perhaps these funds would be better served in support of our police departments rather than giving tax breaks to an organization that supports defunding police and the dissolution of the American nuclear family.”
This is outrageous.
It’s outrageous that the Thunder get such a targeted tax break. The franchise is a private company that should succeed or fail based on its own merits. While it’s easy for NBA fans (like readers of this site) to get caught up in the league, professional basketball isn’t actually important for the greater good.
It’s outrageous that a company’s tax status could depend on how its employees exercise their freedom of expression. The First Amendment still exists.
Ultimately, Roberts almost certainly doesn’t have the power to do what he’s threatening. This is grandstanding for political gain. It gets Roberts into national headlines and little else. Mission accomplished, I guess.
So, Roberts builds a reputation as another big-government politician – someone who wants to use the heavy hand of government to dissuade free expression.
Magic forward Jonathan Isaac, Heat big Meyers Leonard and Spurs coaches Gregg Popovich and Becky Hammon drew plenty of attention for standing during the national anthem while nearly all NBA players, coaches and referees kneeled.
Referee Brent Barnaky also stood.
Tim Bontemps of ESPN:
This isn’t much of an explanation. Nor does it need to be. Barnaky explained that he wasn’t countering the message of kneeling players (opposing racism, particularly through police brutality). That’s sufficient for Barnaky to maintain his neutral positioning – important for an official.
For decades, nearly everyone stood for the national anthem. For many people, that was just about following norms. Even NBA players espousing social-justice messaging previously stood for the national anthem.
But Colin Kaepernick’s brave defiance caused some people to thoughtfully consider their national-anthem posture. So, while many people continued to stand for the national anthem because that’s just was done, some made deliberate choices based on their own values. Sometimes, that led to kneeling. Sometimes, that led to standing.
The thoughtful standers blended into the crowd… until kneeling became widespread in the NBA. Now, they’re the noticeable outliers within the league.
It can take courage to go against the grain. I commend Barnaky for that – and for voicing his support for social justice and peaceful protest.
Barnaky made a personal choice that can stand alone. It doesn’t undermine what anyone else is doing.