Another sluggish start, another great finish from Team USA as they beat Slovenia 119-76 in the quarterfinals of the Basketball World Cup. However, the biggest piece of news wasn’t the victory, but getting the best game from Derrick Rose since the beginning of the tournament and for the first time not looking like he’s struggling with his shot.
When we say that the USA looked Sluggish, it’s only compared to their own high standards. They held a seven point lead at half time, but things completely fell apart for Slovenia in the second half. As it’s been mentioned through this tournament – no team can keep up with this kind of pace, physicality and athleticism for an entire game, as long as at some point the defense starts picking and playing like its supposed to.
Klay Thompson was the main go to guy in the win with 20 points, including 4-of-8 from beyond the arc, while six more players finished in double-figure scoring. Kenneth Faried wasn’t as efficient as always, but he was still very difficult to slow down in the paint, finishing with 14 points and 10 rebounds. James Harden reminded a lot of people of his worse games for the Rockets, including 4-of-14 from the field, yet he still managed to score 14 points as well.
Anthony Davis added 13 points to go with 11 rebounds in one of his quieter games offensively, hitting just 5-of-11 from the field and he was followed by both Kyrie Irving and Rose, each adding 12 points. Irving continues to be maybe the most consistent of the perimeter players for the USA, adding 4 steals as the Americans outscored Slovenia 70-34 in the second half. Despite the talk of looking bad through certain stretches, they’ve been winning their games by an average of more than 33 points a contest.
So what was special about Rose this time? He has looked fast and strong, physically at least, in all of the previous games. What was different this time? The shots went in. He finished with 6-of-8 when shooting 2-pointers, looking close to unstoppable when cutting towards the rim. Maybe it was the sight of Goran Dragic playing in front of him that made him better than we’ve seen him so far, remembering that incredible dunk over the Slovenian guard a few years ago.
Just like Harden, Stephen Curry was having quite the awful shooting night, a couple of days after his excellent performance in the round of 16. Curry finished with just six points while shooting 2-of-9 from the field, part of the USA’s struggles from the field in the early goings. However, thanks to their advantages in the paint, which might not look so clear against Lithuania and Spain (if they make it to the final), it was an opportunity to grab more rebounds.
The media is trying to play out each game like it wasn’t very good. The expectations are for this team to dominate for 40 minutes and not run into any bumps along the road. But this isn’t the perfect team, far from it. Derrick Rose is in the midst of a comeback while getting used to the hierarchy isn’t easy for everyone. But with wins of over 30 points in almost every contest, it’s really hard to say that this has been a struggle so far.