The difference between Team USA and their opponents so far in the Basketball World Cup has been the size and quality of their big men, with Kenneth Faried almost surprisingly standing out yet again, this time in a 106-71 win over the Dominican Republic to make it a perfect four-for-four in the group stage.
A team the USA had no problem beating in an exhibition match before setting out to Spain didn’t bother them again. They are 2-2 in the tournament so far, but without Francisco Garcia, the best the Dominicans could do was hang on with the Americans for one quarter before the game started slipping away from them by the end of the first half, ending with a 15 point lead to the USA.
Faried led the team in scoring for the second time in this tournament, scoring 16 points on 8-of-11 from the field and grabbing 6 rebounds. DeMarcus Cousins finished with the highest efficiency rating of them all, scoring 13 points and grabbing 5 rebounds and hitting all five field goal attempts. Anthony Davis was in double figures as well and so were DeMar DeRozan and James Harden, but the bigs, including Mason Plumlee and Andre Drummond, teaming up for some nice alley-oop action in the second half, that set the tone.
Before the tournament began some raised an eyebrow or two as to why would so many big players be chosen for the tournament considering the talent and depth at the guard for positions up for selection. But the international game is different than the NBA, and having big men who are more than just towers in the paint, which makes it easier to understand why Faried is thriving in this setting due to his effort, speed and athleticism, put you in a whole different level of execution, even when your point guards aren’t having the best of games.
The 3-point shooting was off, hitting just 28.6% of their attempts, and Derrick Rose finished with just 6 points although he looked a little less bothered than in the previous games. The Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson continued to work well together and Rudy Gay had a solid performance in 17 minutes, but the Faried-Davis connection continues to be what usually sparks this team to a different pace and level than their opponents.
One more game against the Ukraine and it’ll be off to the knockout stage against a Group D opponent – right now looking like Mexico, but it might be Angola as well – both not exactly sides there’s much to fear from. In general, Spain and maybe Slovenia with the Dragic brothers seem like the only teams that should cause some concern, both with a perfect 4-0 record. Greece are possibly at that level as well, and their style could be something that bothers the American team without proper adjustments.