Who wins Gold? Breaking down Men’s Olympic basketball tournament


Historically, Olympic gold in men’s basketball has been as American as a cheeseburger with a side of tater tots.

Team USA has dominated Olympic men’s basketball in a dynastic way seen in few sports, having won the gold medal 15 times since the sport was added in 1936. Every other country has combined to win gold four times (including the 1980 USA boycott year).

In Tokyo, the Americans are once again heavy gold medal favorites, but the rest of the world is catching up — there are 37 NBA players in the games outside of Team USA — and the margin for error is much smaller. Can this American team led by Kevin Durant and Damian Lillardwhich did not exactly dominate its exhibition games — continue the trend?

Here is a breakdown of the Men’s Olympic Basketball Tournament.

Gold Medal Favorite

United States

Despite the stumbles on the way here — and the loss of Bradley Beal due to the coronavirus — this is still the most talented and deepest team in the tournament. Kevin Durant almost single-handedly beat the Bucks and looked like the best player on the planet, and now he takes on the international stage with Damian Lillard as his running mate. The roster is loaded with All-Stars such as Jayson Tatum and Zach LaVine on the wing, Bam Adebayo at center, and scorers like Jerami Grant or stoppers like Draymond Green off the bench. How much the three guys who just played in the Finals — Devin Booker, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday — will help against France in the opener remains to be seen (they landed in Tokyo less than 24 hours before that game), but by the medal round they will be part of the rotation.

The USA team we saw in the second half against Spain — one that uses its athleticism advantage, pressures on defense then runs on turnovers and misses, one that moves the ball in the halfcourt — wins gold. However, if the USA relaxes too much on defense or devolves into hero ball on offense, teams in this tournament can beat them. Will the Americans play as a team after just being thrown together less than a month ago? That’s the challenge for Gregg Popovich and staff.

A good test for Team USA right out of the gate against France (their toughest game in Group A). The winner of that game controls the group.

Teams expecting a medal (maybe gold)


They finished fourth in Rio, then fourth at the World Cup, and they expect to medal here. The Aussies don’t fear Team USA, who they beat in their last two meetings, including in an exhibition game in Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago. NBA veteran Patty Mills morphs into an NBA Jam player with the ball on fire during international games, and the roster has plenty of talent with Joe Ingles, Matisse Thybulle, Aron Baynes, Dante Exum, and former NBA guard Matthew Dellavedova. These guys have played together as a core for years and work well off each other, and the team plays a smart game. It’s a good bet they medal, and if Team USA stumbles this is the team that could be golden.


The golden generation of Spanish basketball has gotten old — Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Rudy Fernandez, and Sergio Llull are all in their mid-30s, the young guy is Ricky Rubio at 30 — but they won the World Cup in 2019, and no team has pushed team USA harder on the international stage. The USA overwhelmed Spain in a Las Vegas exhibition, but this is a team that is more than the sum of its parts and can beat an unfocused American squad or just about anybody else in this tournament.


Any team led by Luka Doncic on it is a threat (he is the one guy outside Durant and Lillard who could stake a claim as the best player at the Tokyo Games). Around him is a solid roster that includes Nuggets forward Vlatko Cancar and Zoran Dragic, Goran’s brother. Doncic posted a triple-double against Lithuania to qualify Slovenia for the games, and if he is hot in a short tournament the Slovenians can hang with anybody.

Teams who can get hot and win a medal


They knocked the USA out of the World Cup in 2019, and they have a deep roster led by three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert (who can be even more physical and a force in the international game). Also on the roster is Nicolas Batum, Evan Fournier, Frank Ntlikina, Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot, and Vincent Poirier. Their defense will be good, the team has played together for years, and if the shots fall they are absolutely a medal threat.


They upset Team USA in Las Vegas, and this team has plenty of NBA talent on the roster: Josh Okogie, Gabe Vincent, Precious Achiuwa, KZ Okpala, Jahlil Okafor, Chimezie Metu, Ekpe Udoh, and more. They may not be stars, but this team is deep with quality talent that plays well together, and NBA veteran Mike Brown coaches them. After beating the Americans, the Nigerians looked much less impressive in other Las Vegas exhibitions, but this team could get on a run and be a medal threat. They need to beat Italy in the group stage to advance.


They won a qualifying tournament to get to Tokyo and then added Danilo Gallinari to the roster, giving them a new top scorer. They also have Nicolo Melli on the roster. This team is loaded with quality international players who could be a threat, but it will be tough to get out of a group with Australia and Nigeria.

Feisty teams not lasting long


With free agent to be Dennis Schroder staying home, the Germans are led by Mo Wagner and Isaac Bonga. This is a tall team that is not a pushover, but they lack the top-end athletes and backcourt to be a real threat.


The golden generation has aged out, except for Luis Scola, who is this team’s best player at age 41. They also have Denvers’ Facundo Campazzo, but this team showed in Las Vegas it was a step behind the medal teams like the USA and Spain.

Czech Republic

Tomas Satoransky was brilliant in the qualifying tournaments and led the Czech Republic to an upset of Canada to reach the tournament. This is a team of solid, professional international players, but it will be tough to beat France (or the USA) to get out of Group A.

Teams that should make sure to enjoy Japan during their short stay


The hosts have a hero in the Wizards’ Rui Hachimura, who is a huge star in his native country. Japan also has Yuta Watanabe on the roster, but they don’t have the depth of talent to hang in this tournament (although they did upset France in a warm-up exhibition game, so maybe this ranking is too low).


They were the top team from Asia at the World Cup, so they qualified for the Olympics, but that was a pretty low bar. Former NBA player Hamed Haddadi, now 36, is on the roster, as is former Seton Hall player Aaron Geramipoor, but this team will have trouble keeping games close in group play (they are in Group A with the USA, France, and the Czech Republic).

Heat’s Tyler Herro reportedly targeting Game 3 return during Finals

2023 NBA Playoffs- New York Knicks v Miami Heat - Game Three
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Tyler Herro fractured his hand just before halftime of Game 1 against the Milwaukee Bucks, and following his ensuing surgery the target timeline was he could be back for the NBA Finals. That led to a lot of “good luck with that” comments on social media (not to mention comments about his sideline fits).

The No. 8 seed Miami Heat are on to the NBA Finals, and Herro hopes to return to the court when Miami returns home for Game 3, reports Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report and TNT.

Maybe he returns, perhaps that is optimistic (Game 3 is Wednesday, June 7). Herro is still feeling pain in his right hand, he told reporters after the game.

Herro averaged 20.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists a game for the Heat this season, shooting 37.8% from 3. He was the team’s secondary shot creator after Jimmy Butler, a guy counted on to jumpstart the offense at points.

If he returns, Erik Spoelstra has to return him to the sixth-man role where he thrived a season ago. The starting lineup without him was better defensively, and with the emergence of Caleb Martin and Gabe Vincent, the Heat don’t need the offensive spark with that first group (less Herro has meant more Jimmy Butler with the ball, and that’s a good thing). The second unit could use the offensive spark Herro brings.

It’s something to watch as the Heat return to the NBA Finals for the first time since the bubble, this time facing the formidable Denver Nuggets.

Three takeaways from Heat playing with intent, beating Celtics in Game 7


Is there a more Miami Heat way to win a series than going on the road and ripping the heart out of Boston fans in their own building in a Game 7?

Is there a more fitting way for this era of Celtics to lose this series than to play poorly until their backs are against the wall, then flip the switch and look like the best team in the NBA, only to not quite get all the way there?

In those ways the Eastern Conference Finals worked out the way it should have, with the Miami Heat taking charge of Game 7 in the first quarter and never looking back. The Heat beat the Celtics 103-84 to advance to the NBA Finals (which start Thursday in Denver).

Here are three takeaways from Game 7.

1) Caleb Martin embodied the difference in this series

Jimmy Butler was officially voted MVP of the Conference Finals. He averaged 24.2 points, 7.7 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game through the series, numbers that are hard to argue. He is the best player on the team.

However, he won in a tight 5-4 vote over Caleb Martin — who had 26 points and 10 rebounds in Game 7, but more than that embodied the difference in this series. Martin played with intention, focus, and with a commitment to the system every night in a way the Celtics don’t do consistently. Martin, a guy waived by the Hornets in the summer of 2021, has had to scrap and fight for everything he’s gotten in the league, and with that comes a hardened edge.

“To the untrained eye, he just looks like he’s an undrafted guy who has been in the G League, who has started with Charlotte and now he’s here,” Butler said of Martin. “Started on a two-way contract. That’s what it looks like to y’all. To us, he’s a hell of a player, hell of a defender, playmaker, shotmaker, all of the above. Everybody [on the team] has seen Caleb work on those shots day in, day out. It doesn’t surprise us. We have seen it every single day. I’m so proud and happy for him.”

Martin’s shotmaking also embodied why the Heat won — they were simply better at getting and hitting the shots they wanted all series long. It was historic shotmaking.

Bam Adebayo had another rough offensive outing — 12 points on 4-of-10 shooting with a lot of good looks missed — but his defense was stellar and that was reflected in his +22 on the night, the best of any starter on the team. He remains vital to what they do.

2) Jayson Tatum‘s rolled ankle proved too much for Celtics

The Celtics didn’t lose this series because Jayson Tatum rolled his ankle on the game’s first play.

They lost this series because when they went down 0-3 in the series they left themselves no margin for error — everything had to go perfectly. It never does, just ask the other 150 teams in NBA history to go down 0-3 in a series. Tatum went on to score 14 points, but he admitted he was a shell of himself.

The Celtics needed to collectively make up for Tatum being slowed (much the way the Heat’s role players such as Gabe Vincent stepped up with Tyler Herro out).

Jaylen Brown didn’t, he ended up shooting 8-of-23 for 19 points, but with eight turnovers. Derrick White had 18 and was the best Celtic in Game 7. Malcolm Brogdon tried but could not play through an elbow injury he may need off-season surgery on (and coach Joe Mazzulla stuck with him a little too long).

The bigger problem was Boston was 9-of-42 (21.4%) on 3-pointers. Miami leaned into their zone defense (which allowed them to keep Duncan Robinson on the floor) and while the Celtics did a better job of getting into the middle of that zone, but they still needed to knock down shots over the top of it. They failed.

When the Celtics’ shots aren’t falling it bleeds into the other aspects of their game — the defensive lapses come, the mental focus goes in and out. Consistency is not a hallmark of these Celtics.

We’ll get into Boston’s future in the next couple of days, they should and will re-sign Jaylen Brown and make another run, but this core needs to look at itself in the mirror and figure out why it can’t play closer to its peak nightly.

3) The Heat are the life lesson you want to teach

As a parent, there are a lot of life lessons you try to pass on to your children, although you eventually realize that it’s more about what you show them day-to-day than what you say in any moment that really resonates.

One thing I want to show my daughters, what I want for them is to be resilient like this Miami team — a group that took a punch to the gut in Game 6, stumbled, got up off the ground, shook off the dust, and came back with more resolve and focus.

“I think probably people can relate to this team,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after his team advanced. “Life is hard. Professional sports is just kind of a reflection sometimes of life, that things don’t always go your way. The inevitable setbacks happen and it’s how you deal with that collectively. There’s a lot of different ways that it can go. It can sap your spirit. It can take a team down for whatever reason. With this group, it’s steeled us and made us closer and made us tougher.

“These are lessons that hopefully we can pass along to our children, that you can develop this fortitude. And sometimes you have to suffer for the things that you want. Game 6, the only thing that we can do is sometimes you have to laugh at the things that make you cry…

“We have some incredible competitors in that locker room. They love the challenge. They love putting themselves out there in front of everybody. Open to criticism. Open to everything. But to compete for it, and that’s a beautiful thing.”

They did compete harder than the team in Green across from them, and that’s why Miami tips off in the NBA Finals on Thursday night.

Martin, Butler spark Heat to resilient Game 7 win on road, beat Celtics to advance to Finals


This is what resilience looks like. What heart looks like.

Miami had to fight through the play-in, coming back late against the Bulls to earn the No. 8 seed. Then they beat the feared Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Then they beat the feisty New York Knicks. All that to get the most talented team in the NBA on paper, the Boston Celtics.

Miami raced out to a 3-0 series lead, then watched the Celtics climb back in — taking a punch to the gut with Derrick White’s putback to win Game 6 and force a Game 7. Most teams would have rolled over after that loss.

Miami came out hungry in Game 7, punched the Celtics in the mouth in the first quarter, pulled away in the second to a double-digit lead, and never let Boston all the way back, eventually taking their hearts and the game, 103-84.

The Miami Heat advance to the NBA Finals, flying directly after this game to Denver where they will face Nikola Jokić and the Nuggets starting Thursday night.

Caleb Martin was the MVP of this game — 26 points on 11-of-16 shooting, plus 10 rebounds — and was the Heat’s best player all series long.

However, the voters gave the Eastern Conference Finals MVP award to Jimmy Butler, who scored 28 in this game and bounced back after a couple of rough outings.

For Boston, the game may have turned on the team’s first possession when Jayson Tatum turned his ankle, landing on Gabe Vincent after a jumper. He stayed in the game and finished with 14 points, but he never moved the same and was not the threat the Celtics needed as a shot creator with the ball in his hands. Postgame Tatum admitted it impacted his play.

With Tatum injured, the Celtics ran a lot of their offense through Derrick White and he responded with 18 points.

With Tatum down, the Celtics also needed more Jaylen Brown, who scored 19 points but on 8-of-23 shooting with eight turnovers. It was not nearly enough.

Both teams were tight to start the game (as is often the case in Game 7s) and it showed mostly with the Celtics shooting 0-of-10 from 3. Miami started slow but did a better job settling into their offense and led 22-15 after one quarter. Their hot streak extended to a 25-7 run into early in the second.

The Heat stretched the lead up to as much as 17 and led by 11 at the half thanks to 14 from Caleb Martin and 11 from Jimmy Butler in the first 24. The Celtics were lucky to be that close shooting 4-of-21 from 3 and Jayson Tatum only scoring seven points. What kept Boston close was the seven offensive rebounds.

Miami made a push in the third quarter, had momentum for stretches with White hitting shots and making plays, but they couldn’t get stops and entering the fourth they were still down 10.

Then the Heat started the fourth on a 7-0 run, which was the ballgame.

Philadelphia 76ers reportedly hire Nick Nurse as new head coach

Toronto Raptors v Boston Celtics
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Doc Rivers could not take a contender in the Philadelphia 76ers — a roster with the reigning MVP in Joel Embiid and a former one in James Harden — past the second round. Again. As good as the Sixers have been in the regular season the past few years, it has not translated to playoff success.

Now Nick Nurse will get the chance.

Nurse will be hired as the 76ers’ new head coach, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and confirmed by Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia.

The buzz around Nurse to Philadephia spiked in the last 24 hours after Milwaukee announced hiring Adrian Griffin as their coach. Wojnarowski says Nurse chose Philadelphia over the Phoenix Suns, although it’s unclear if Phoenix made any kind of formal offer to Nurse (he did interview for the job, where assistant Kevin Young is rumored to have the momentum to land the gig).

Nurse makes sense for the 76ers as a coach who is unafraid of unorthodox, out-of-the-box strategies, which is part of the reason he was able to lead the Raptors to the 2019 NBA title. His defenses in Toronto were aggressive and tried to force turnovers, then the Raptors ran off that. He is considered a more creative Xs and Os person than Doc Rivers, the man he replaces in Philly.

Nurse also has a connection to Philadelphia president/GM Daryl Morey, who hired Nurse to coach the Houston Rockets’ G-League team the Rio Grand Valley Vipers back in 2011 (when Morey was running the Rockets). That connection was another reason the league sources thought of Nurse as the frontrunner in Philly.

The question is what the roster Nurse will coach looks like. James Harden is a free agent with persistent rumors he might return to Houston, does bringing in Nurse influence his decision?

Philadelphia will be in win-now mode with MVP Embiid, rising star Tyrese Maxey (who will have to shoulder much more responsibility if Harden leaves), plus quality players such as Tobias Harris, De'Anthony Melton, Shake Milton and others. However, expect changes over the summer.

Nurse walks in the door facing high expectations but with a roster capable of reaching them.