Thursday, July 31, 2008
Team USA vs. Turkey Recap
In what appeared to be USA's first real international test, the Americans put on quite a show. The alley-oops and ferocious dunks were there as usual, but the offensive cohesiveness was something that was missing from the 2004 team. Kobe Bryant, the reigning NBA MVP, only scored nine points but dished out a game-high seven assists. LeBron James, in his first game back from an ankle injury, put up a impressive stat line of 20 points, five rebounds, and four assists.
Dwyane Wade was extremely aggressive on both the offensive and defensive ends yet a tad overaggressive at times, being called for a couple reaching fouls and an offensive foul in the lane. Nonetheless, he finished the game with 13 points and 3 assists on 6-for-9 shooting. The game ended with a final score of 114-82, the expected annihilation of the Turkish squad that was without Hedo Turkoglu (Orlando Magic) and Mehmet Okur (Utah Jazz). However, the game was much closer than the score indicated. The Turks took the lead from USA midway through the first quarter, which ended with Team USA leading by only one point.
Carmelo Anthony, arguably the best international player in the entire world as Fran Fraschilla said, scored 11 first-quarter points but only six in the remaining three periods. Akyol, a Turkish guard, finished with a game-high 22 points which included 3-for-8 shooting from deep.
From the beginning, Turkey was trying to pound the ball inside. On the defensive end, they were sending double-teams at Dwight Howard in the post. This soon ended when Carmelo went on a little scoring run of his very own, which forced Turkey to lay off Howard and focus more on Anthony. Semih Erden, the big man who was just drafted by the Boston Celtics, played very physically inside and left me somewhat impressed. With his size though, he could have been much more assertive with his rebounding.
The biggest problems I saw for Team USA were simple: team defense and rebounding. Although the Americans out-rebounded their opponents 28-25, the Turks had more than half their rebounds on the offensive end. They got a lot of second-chance points because of either bad positioning or no boxing out. At times, USA would have only one guy crashing for the rebound.
Another minor concern was the fact that Team USA was maybe having too much fun at times. Seeing Kobe at the free throw line going through his routine while he was laughing and carrying on was ridiculous and out-of-place. They should have fun but still remain focused and intense. Finally, Coach K should address some of the defensive lapses that occur. Leaving guys wide-open and being so overaggressive that a good shooter gets an open three are things that can't happen if they want to win gold.
All in all though, I was very impressed with everyone's play (even though I didn't get to see any spectacular shooting from Michael Redd) and the USA coaches should be happy with their team's performance. It wasn't easy to bring all these big-name players together but they seemed to have done it very well. I just hope they don't get too overconfident and arrogant about their play. These international teams are serious about winning gold and beating the Americans. If a team like Spain succeeds in taking us down, it's going to be a long road before USA Basketball gets back on track to win gold medals.