Team USA pulled out a 105-78 victory against the Argentine team in the quarterfinals of the medal round, but the final score wasn’t an indication of the entire game. At the start, the Americans came out extremely sluggish, and at one point found themselves in a ten-point hole (19-9) midway through the first quarter.
The shots weren’t falling, and it was clear why: too many outside shots. Sure, the starting lineup is packed with four outstanding three-point shooters–Kyrie Irving, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson–but when the shots weren’t falling, they continued to shoot long shots. I know you’ve heard the stigma that shooters keep shooting until they make shots, and this is true. But, in the midst of the Argentinian outburst, the United States attempted just two shots inside the paint, hitting one, though.
I believe this was because DeAndre Jordan started ahead of DeMarcus Cousins, who would’ve had a field day to start the game, evidenced by him coming in later in the period and dominating the low post. As fans, we can live with DJ starting because of his defensive presence and rebounding ability, which created multiple shots throughout the contest.
The game turned around once Paul George and Jimmy Butler appeared, and they brought exuberant energy on the defensive end that translated into easy buckets–they denied the ball at least five feet behind the three-point line. Coach K pulled the trigger rather quickly on Melo, who was having a poor game offensively but was even more inadequate defensively. It’s plausible that Anthony just had a bad game. It happens. And no one should chastise Carmelo exclusively for the team’s poor start. Regardless, Coach K should heavily consider inserting PG or Jimmy Buckets into the starting lineup for their activity on defense, and bringing Melo off the bench. After all, defense is this team’s calling card.
In his 20 minutes of play, George went for 17 points, three steals, and three blocks with a plus/minus of +21; Butler’s stats weren’t as impressive, but his plus/minus was +18.
When they play defense as they did against Argentina, it allows the Americans to get out in transition because they’re forcing turnovers, and it’s tough to stop them once they get going downhill. With Anthony on the defensive end, they lose a step because Melo is nowhere near as athletic and mobile as he used to be, and younger wings have minimal problems when taking him off the dribble.
George or Butler, on the other hand, have shown the ability to matchup against premier guys in the NBA, so why wouldn’t they showcase that talent internationally?
Going forward, the United States cannot risk getting off to a slow start, especially on the defensive end. They matchup against Spain on Friday, and will play either Austrailia or Serbia should they advance to the gold medal game, and going down early against the latter opponents can spell trouble for the team.
Stats courtesy of Rio 2016’s official site
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