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August 20, 2008

Quarterfinals: USA beats Aussies

bryantjoke.jpgLeBron and Kobe jokin around (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Redeem Team USA has a habit of starting off slow only to embarrass their opponents at the end. Again, this is how their Quarterfinal matchup against Australia turned out, the 4th seed in bracket A. The Aussies had felt that their Exhibition showing against USA (they lost only 85-76) would prepare them well if they were to meet in the tournament as they did today, but if anything it opened Team USA's eyes up and made them realize that every game is going to be a fight.

The game was 25-24 at the end of the 1st quarter. Even towards the end of the 1st half it was close, but the US had a few key plays notably a buzzer-beating three pointer by PG Deron Williams. This put the lead to 12 at the half. Team US just ran away with it starting the third quarter, with Kobe knocking down a few threes and other shots, and soon enough the score was 69-43.

Kobe Bryant had his best game of the Olympics, churning out 25 points in 25 minutes along with 5 rebounds and 4 / 7 from three point land. LeBron James had 16 points 9 rebounds 4 steals and Carmelo Anthony put up 15 points 5 rebounds and 2 / 5 three pointers. USA continues to be extremely efficient from the floor, shooting 66% thanks to plenty of easy baskets. One negative sign is that Team USA continues to shoot free throws poorly (18 of 31 for 58%) and was shooting three pointers poorly until a barrage in the 2nd half got their percentage up to 41% for the game.

Australia's stud NBA player Andrew Bogut suffered through foul trouble and contributed just 4 points and 2 rebounds to go with 2 turnovers and 3 fouls in 11 minutes. The Aussies grabbed just 28 rebounds to Team USA's 57, doubled up by the athleticism from the USA wing players. Australia began to show their frustration as the game got away, with Mark Worthington taking a hack at Carmelo Anthony and inciting the USA team further. Patrick Mills had a nice effort with 20 points 2 threes and 3 steals.

Greece and Argentina are playing right now in the other Olympic Quarterfinal matchup to decide who goes on to play Team USA. Greece is looking to avenge the Athens loss in 2004 to Argentina.

August 16, 2008

Team USA Routs Spain by 37

kobebehind.jpgPhoto by Kristian Dowling/Getty Images

The toughest matchup has come and gone, with the Americans still standing on top. Teams are learning that while the 2004 team was stacked with All-stars as well, this new generation is something different. The athleticism is leading to plenty of steals and an outrageous 32-0 fast break difference between the Spaniards and USA.

The US thrashing of Spain showed off the efficiency of the American team. From three point land, Spain shot 6 / 28 (21%) and US shot 12 / 25 (48%). The first few games USA could not knock down three point shots, but seemed to create more open looks with penetration and good ball movement in this one.

More than anything, when you shoot 58% from the floor and you hold the opponent to 39%, you are going to win. Same goes for the 28 Spain turnovers to 16 US turnovers, again because of 16 USA steals. Teams are applying pressure on the USA guards but they are getting burned, and on the other end USA is using their depth and athleticism to create turnovers and fast break points.

Maybe the worst thing to be said of USA at this point is that they have not been challenged yet. That would have been helpful going into the medal round, as the preliminaries are nearly over sans for a pointless matchup against Germany on Monday night in China. But with Spain being the top challenger, who is to say anyone will give the US a run for their money and test their mettle?

Group A and B are starting to shake out a bit, with USA clinching the top seed in the B bracket. They likely will face 4th seed Australia in Group A for the Quarterfinal matchup. Then, USA is likely to see Argentina in the Semis, and then Spain again or Lithuania in the Finals. Much is to be determined come Monday the final Preliminary day. The US and Germany's match at 8am eastern however has no bearing on the rankings.

August 9, 2008

2008 Beijing Olympics Redeem Team

olympicnba.jpg
Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

The 2008 NBA Finals has long past.

Olympic Basketball has never had a bigger stage than the one it is on in China in 2008. The US team has gone through quite the metamorphosis since the Dream Teams in the 1990's. After all the 1992-1996-2000 success, the US fell on hard times in Athens in 2004 and had another bronze showing at the World Championships in 2006.

The US is a hungry team with players like Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Dwayne Wade eager to cleanse their names from the disappointment in 2004. An experienced veteran in Jason Kidd has been added to provide stability in someone who has won Gold in the past for USA.

In terms of athleticism especially for Wings / Guards, the US is unmatched in the tournament. Where they are thin is at the big position, where Dwight Howard was slowed earlier with a sternum issue and Tyson Chandler was hurt as well (prompting USA to bring Tayshaun Prince instead). Chris Bosh is the backup Center but his thin frame may prove troublesome. FIBA games are much more physical than the NBA, partly because they are allowed to play that way and bang inside (no three seconds, so you can clog the lane).

In the previous Olympics matchup, the USA's Achilles Heel was long distance three point shooting. Michael Redd was then added, and most of the superstar types like Wade / Lebron / Carmelo have improved their three point shooting.

2008 USA Roster for Beijing

F - Carmelo Anthony (2004 Olympics 2006 World's)
F - Carlos Boozer (2004 Olympics)
C - Chris Bosh (2006 World's)
G - Kobe Bryant
C - Dwight Howard (2006 World's)
G - LeBron James (2004 Olympics 2006 World's)
G - Jason Kidd (2000 Olympics)
G - Chris Paul (2006 World's)
F - Tayshaun Prince
G - Michael Redd
G - Dwyane Wade (2004 Olympics 2006 World's)
G - Deron Williams

Group A
Argentina
Australia
Croatia
Iran
Lithuania
Russia

Group B
Angola
China
Germany
Greece
Spain
United States


Be sure to catch the NBA Olympic Superstars on TV - Preliminary Round
starts August 10th. USA opens up against Yao Ming and China at 10:15 AM Eastern Time August 10th.