Kobe Bryant said that it won’t be an easy game against France. Everyone who watched it begs to differ, as the 2012 Dream Team, Team USA, had no problem from the second quarter onward against the athletic French team with 6 NBA players, winning their Olympics opener 98-71, with Kevin Durant leading the way with 22 points.
If the American team has a problem in the paint, this wasn’t the game to expose that problem; France aren’t the team to expose it. Without Joakim Noah, there isn’t much power at Center for the French, and all that was left were Tony Parker, finishing with 10 points but feeling mostly frustrated, and Ali Traore with 12 points, while Nicolas Batum and Boris Diaw failed to impress or exceed expectations.
The United States won won the rebounding battle 56-40, keeping the French shooting at below 40% and an exceptionally bad 8.7% from beyond the arc. It’s not that the winners shot that well, only 43.1% from the field, but they didn’t really need to get shots from the outside. Getting 10 steals and forcing 18 turnovers led to easy points.
If you thought Kevin Durant was hard to guard in the NBA, than he’s pretty much impossible to defend in international basketball, as those who watched him star in Turkey two summers ago might attest to. LeBron James did most of the point guarding and the United States hardly needed their ‘true’ center, Tyson Chandler, on the floor, playing only 11 minutes, grabbing 9 rebounds.
Kevin Durant, as we said, was the go-to-guy with 22 points and 9 boards, getting to the line easily (7-7) and being the only hot hand from beyond the arc with 3-5. LeBron James? The point forward role suits him perfectly, now more than ever, here more than anywhere, finishing with 9 points, 5 rebounds and 8 assists. There’s no real need for true centers with a lineup that includes Durant, James and Paul. Too much athleticism, speed and pressure on both ends of the floor for most team, probably any team, to handle.
Anything to learn? The only “worrying” moments came in a close first quarter. If that’s the best any team can push this American side to stutter, I wouldn’t be surprised. At some point, the speed and depth are just too much for anyone to handle. Kevin Love came off the bench to score 14 points, while both Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams added 9 each while having a terrible shooting afternoon. It still didn’t pose a problem.
The next couple of games, against Tunisia and Nigeria shouldn’t be more than warm-ups and more opportunities to spread the minutes, even for young Anthony Davis. The Americans probably don’t face an actual test until the final game of the group stage, on August 6, against Argentina, who lost to the USA by only 6 points in the tournament preparations.