This win over Slovenia wasn’t pretty — if Team USA plays like this Thursday against Lithuania it will be a close game. If they play like this Sunday against Spain they will lose.
The USA struggled with its offensive execution in the first half of the World Cup quarter-finals — James Harden was 0-of-8, Stephen Curry 0-of-4, the USA team shooting just 36 percent against one of the weaker defenses in the tournament — and it was just a seven point game at the half.
Then the USA won the second half 70-32.
Team USA overwhelmed another opponent with their athleticism and took the game 119-76 over Slovenia. They advance to the World Cup semi-finals against Lithuania on Thursday in Barcelona (3 ET on ESPN). Lithuania is a physical, veteran team that lost to Team USA by just five points at the London Olympics. They will not roll over and feature NBA front line players in Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas and the Rockets’ Dontas Motiejunas (which will lessen USA’s advantage on the glass so far this tournament).
Team USA needs to bring the second half defensive pressure and offensive execution for the entire next two games. Because the start of this game was not pretty.
The Americans opened the game 1-of-11 from the floor as they played too much isolation, one-on-one basketball without much ball movement. Basically a lot of drive without much kick. Meanwhile on the other side the fired up Slovenians were making shots and plays. They hung close for the first half of the first quarter.
But the USA’s big men of Anthony Davis, Kenneth Faried and DeMarcus Cousins were too much for the undersized Serbians to handle — the Americans had 14 offensive rebounds in the first quarter. Faried finished the game with 14 points and 13 rebounds, Davis 13 and 11, Cousins 9 and 5.
Still the game remained tight as the Americans missed shots, didn’t execute in the half court and get frustrated by the always unpredictable FIBA officiating. It was a seven point game at the break, 49-42.
In first half, USA shot 36 percent overall, 3-of-10 from three. The USA was 4-of-13 shooting outside paint until they hit their last couple jumpers before the half.
After back and forth start to the third quarter the USA went on a 17-5 run, taking advantage of Slovenian turnovers to get out and run, stretching lead out to 22. The USA found its defensive pressure and was getting its transition points, which is how the team was built to play. USA put up 37 in the third quarter and led 86-64 after three.
Klay Thompson had 20 off the bench to lead Team USA in scoring. James Harden had 14 all in the second half, Kyrie Irving had 13. Derrick Rose had a dozen on 6-of-10 shooting and looked the best he has all tournament.
Goran Dragic had 13 points to lead Slovenia but needed 15 shots to get there. His brother Zoran Dragic had 11 points on 12 shots.
It goes down as another blowout American win, but one that still leaves you wondering if they can win the tournament.