Thanks to Carmelo Anthony and Kyrie Irving, Team USA avoided losing their first game in over a decade, helping the 2016 version of the Dream Team escape Australia with a 98-88 win, only escaping in the final 7 minutes of the game, trailing for most of the first half.
The troupe of NBA stars exposed some of their weaknesses: Not having any system, as Mike Krzyzewski is cruising towards what he hopes is a gold medal for a third and final time, not really doing anything from the bench except replacing players. The reliance on skill and skill alone seems to put them in difficult situations when they’re surprised by teams, like Australia did to them. Maybe it was all about being arrogant and underprepared, which means the head coach, if he has any influence at all in this situation, has to run a tighter ship, which coincidentally is also where the players are staying during the Olympics.
Maybe more surprising than anything was the fact that Australia didn’t respect them one bit. A very physical team with Andrew Bogut and Aron Baynes in the paint, they managed to do quite well against the attempts to post up DeMarcus Cousins, which usually works a lot smoother. The defense kept getting breached, and it took them about three and a bit quarters to start locking down their own side of the court, which paved the way to the hard fought win.
So what did we learn from this game?
- Put a Team USA jersey on Anthony every night and the New York Knicks might be NBA champions. He became the all-time leading scorer for Team USA in the Olympic games, and his 31 points, hitting 9-for-15 from beyond the arc, were the main reason a massive upset didn’t happen.
- Draymond Green was happy for once to see Irving burying those though side stepping three pointers, not losing because of it this time.
- Speaking of the Warriors: The combination of Kevin Durant, Green, and Thompson shot a whopping 8-for-30 from the field. Green’s defense in the final minutes really helped out, and it galvanized everyone to play some defense.
- Australia might be the team to beat besides the United States. Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova look like they’re All-Stars when putting on the national team jersey, and this is a team that’s missing Dante Exum, Thom Maker and Ben Simmons. Andrew Bogut probably is playing in his final Olympic games, but their aggressive style and sometimes overlooked talent makes them serious medal contenders.
And the final words?
This is probably a good shake up for the United States. Maybe lay off the partying a bit, and focus more and who is playing against them. Without a team system, they can win gold on talent alone. It’s worked in the past, but the last two “Dream Teams” didn’t seem to be overlooking the opponents in front of them. While they are better by 30 or 40 points (or more) than almost everyone they’ll be facing in this tournament, there are some teams that can take advantage of being disrespected, and Australia almost did.