There have been very few reasons to actually be frustrated with Team USA and specifically the results in the Basketball World Championships, but guard play and excellence has mostly been absent from the tournament. Stephen Curry finding his groove from beyond the arc in the 86-63 round of 16 win over Mexico.
All eyes are towards Spain. Despite facing Slovenia next and in the semifinals (if they go through) someone from the foursome of Australia, New Zealand, Turkey or Lithuania, everything seems to be pointing towards a showdown with Spain in the final. That’s why so many big men were brought over, and that is the team the coaching staff is focused on, despite all of their attempts to treat every other opponent will their most serious intentions.
Curry scored 20 points on 7-of-10 from the field including six 3-pointers. He shot 4-of-17 from the field prior to this game, which was very different from the rest of the tournament in general. No slow starts as the USA surged to a 13-2 start right off the bat. No dominance from Anthony Davis and Kennet Faried, the two leading men earlier on, combining to score 12 points and grab 14 rebounds.
DeMarcus Cousins was the leading scorer among the big men with 11 points, adding 7 rebounds. His defense near the rim might become valuable in the tougher challenges ahead, and was something of a pleasant surprise in the win over Mexico, who didn’t have much besides Gustavo Ayon, scoring 25 points to lead his team in the 23-point loss.
For a few games I think our perimeter guys were just really trying to get Anthony off because we had not looked for him and the pendulum went too far, where we’re looking at that too much. And today it’s swinging more into the middle, and if we get that balance then we’ll be a very good — we think we are a good offensive team — but we can be an outstanding offensive team if we get that balance.
James Harden continues to be solid, adding 12 points as he continues to ignore other players while attacking the paint and going quite often to the line. Derrick Rose had another game with 0 points, and it’s getting more and more difficult to explain what’s been so wrong. His speed is there, his physicality as well. However, his shot couldn’t be more rusty, and his decision making when attacking the rim is more than just lacking.
The argument over the last few days has been about how John Wall and Damian Lillard were short changed for being left out the roster while Rose made it in. At this point it’s way too late to discuss it an actually influence something. It won’t matter too much if the gold medal lands in the right place as far as the USA are concerned, repeating their achievement from 2010. Losing somewhere along the way will mean a lot questioning regarding the decisions leading up to the squad selection.