Be it their final win over Serbia (129-92) or the entire tournament in general, the United States never really had any trouble winning every game and eventually the gold medal, getting quite the impressive shooting performance from Kyrie Irving and James Harden, this time not waiting for the second half to get serious.
They shot an incredible 11-of-16 from beyond the arc in the first half to open a 14 point lead in the first quarter and lead by 26 points when the half break arrived. James Harden scored 23 points, making his defensive lapses, which have been a source of comedy throughout this tournament, forgettable and lacking importance. Kyrie Irving, the MVP, finished with 26 points, casting another bad light at Derrick Rose who was the only player on the team to finish without a single point.
The USA finish the tournament with an average victory margin of 33 points. Their toughest game? A 21-point win over Turkey. That’s the difference between a very good, but not the best team the United States could have sent, and the rest of the world at the moment. A team that gave them trouble in two Olympic Finals (2008, 2012), Spain, didn’t even make the semifinals, dispatched by France along the way.
Proving that this isn’t just some ‘B’ team was a driving force all tournament long, but especially in the final game. Kenneth Faried took to heart the comments about this team being vulnerable and primed to be beaten. The fact is that the media simply did it to make things interesting. What’s the point of covering a tournament while suggesting it’s a sealed competition from the start? Speculating on when it’ll happen and trying to focus on weaknesses gives some people hope that this isn’t all going to be too easy.
However, the supremacy of American basketball, be it skills or athleticism, is too much for the world when the projects are taken seriously. Gone are the days of those “dark ages” from 2002 to 2006. Even without having the access to every superstar in the league, making it a privilege and not a burden to play during the summer for the national team makes it all very different for the players and the coaching staff.
The right players were taken, and this time it showed on defense. Team USA gave up just 71.6 points per game, and that only came after setting an electrifying pace in the final against Serbia. They didn’t give up more than 77 points in the previous eight games. That might have something to do with Thibodeau joining the staff and providing his expertise. Despite his presence possibly helping Rose get picked without merit, it helped make this team even more unbeatable.
The Olympics are usually easier to recruit for, but who knows what will happen in two years? After being so dominant four tournaments in a row, maybe the allure of bringing back the dominance of American basketball will fade away. Now it’s a short rest and off to training camps as the NBA season isn’t that far away. Players like Faried and Cousins will try to take the momentum and build on it. Chicago Bulls fans will hope Rose leaves this championship behind him. When trying to dissect it individually, not everyone had such a great time.