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NBA AM: Charting Team USA’s Path To Gold Medal
Posted By Lang Greene On August 8, 2012 @ 7:46 am In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
The U.S. Men’s National Basketball Team roared through the preliminary rounds in pool play in these Olympics and compiled an undefeated 5-0 record, rarely being tested. But now it comes down to this; the knockout rounds. Win or go home. One and done.
Unlike the NBA playoff format where the best teams usually emerge victorious in a best of seven game series, winning a gold medal in Olympic competition requires a team to be perfect each time they step on the floor.
The 2012 USA Team entered the Olympics as the overwhelming favorites and nothing has changed despite the team playing without players such as Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Blake Griffin.
The team has been dominant offensively but has also showed some weakness (at times, not consistently) on the defensive end of the court. One thing this team does understand is its unmistakable vulnerability. Lithuania was able to push Team USA to the brink of defeat, gaining a lead late in the fourth quarter, before the Americans squeezed out a five point victory – 99-94.
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant has been a bright spot for Team USA this summer and he also recognizes that his team can be beaten on any given night if they fail to execute, citing the Lithuania game as a wakeup call.
“We can be beat,” Durant said according to the Associated Press. “If we don’t come out and play the way we’re supposed to play. You have to always turn on. We can’t try to turn on in the third quarter. From the beginning of the game, we have to be focused, and I think it was a good lesson for us — especially that Lithuania game.”
For Team USA to take home their second consecutive Olympic gold medal and fourteenth overall, the squad will need to win its next three contests.
Here is how the schedule will play out through the gold medal game.
August 8 – Quarterfinal Round
- Game 1 – Russia vs. Lithuania
- Game 2 – France vs. Spain
- Game 3 – Brazil vs. Argentina
- Game 4 – Team USA vs. Australia
August 10 – Semifinal Round
- Game 1 – Game 1 Winner vs. Game 2 Winner
- Game 2 – Game 3 Winner vs. Game 4 Winner
August 12 – Championship Round
- Bronze Medal Contest: Semifinal Game 1 Loser vs. Semifinal Game 2 Loser
- Gold Medal Contest: Semifinal Game 1 Winner vs. Semifinal Game 2 Winner
Remaining Teams Who Could Give Team USA Problems
Argentina: Although Team USA just thumped Argentina by over 20 points to conclude pool play, you must remember before they opened up such a large lead in the second half the Argentineans were only down one point at one portion of the third quarter.
Argentina features NBA players Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola and Carlos Delfino who are battle tested veterans on the international scene and have enjoyed success versus Team USA in the past. In 2002, Argentina knocked off the USA National Team (87-80) in the World Championships, the first loss suffered by a USA Team with NBA players. In the 2004 Olympics, Argentina knocked off Team USA in the semifinal round (89-81) on their way to a gold medal.
Brazil: This team features three NBA players standing at least 6’11 with Nene, Anderson Varejao and Tiago Splitter holding down their frontcourt. Brazil played the Americans extremely well during exhibition play leading up to the Olympics despite losing. Brazil was able to outmuscle the smaller Team USA frontcourt and finished the contest with close to a double-digit team rebounding advantage.
It also must be noted; Brazil’s head coach Ruben Magnano led the aforementioned Argentinean teams to victories over Team USA in 2002 and 2004.
Russia: The Russia National Team isn’t receiving the headlines of some teams in the field, but the squad is shaping up to be a formidable threat based on their run through pool play. The team is led by former NBA All-Defensive forward Andrei Kirilenko and Denver Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov. Russia also features guard Alexey Shved who will lace them up for the Minnesota Timberwolves next season.
Spain: Team USA survived a late fourth quarter run by Spain in the 2008 Olympics to win their first gold medal since 2000. Most expected another Spain versus Team USA matchup in the gold medal tilt leading up to the 2012 games, but Spain looked vulnerable throughout pool play.
But Spain still boasts a dynamic frontcourt with Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, which could make things interesting for Team USA who only features one true center on the roster.
Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas Is Ready To Lead
With power forward Jared Sullinger (No. 21 overall pick, 2012 NBA Draft) foregoing his remaining collegiate eligibility and moving on to the professional ranks, many aren’t giving Ohio State a chance to duplicate last season’s 31-8 record which included a trip to the Final Four.
But the cupboard at Ohio State isn’t exactly what you’d call bare bones. The team will return last season’s second leading scorer, Deshaun Thomas, a rising junior who made significant strides as a sophomore. Thomas averaged 15.9 points per game last season, more than doubling his offensive productivity over his freshman campaign. Thomas also improved his three-point accuracy and became even more efficient from the field shooting over 50 percent.
HOOPSWORLD recently caught up Thomas at Adidas Nations and discussed the expectations of him becoming the team’s unquestioned leader and why he feels this year’s team is still poised to turn some heads.
Bryant, Gasol Can’t Wait To Pair Up With Steve Nash In Los Angeles
It seems like a distant memory, but the Los Angeles Lakers are just two years removed from winning the second of back-to-back titles. However the past two seasons have seen the franchise eliminated from the postseason in embarrassing fashion.
This summer the team shored up one of their glaring weaknesses over the last few years, point guard, by acquiring two-time MVP Steve Nash from the Phoenix Suns. Nash is expected to open the floor up and create easier opportunities for the Lakers’ big men Paul Gasol and Andrew Bynum. The arrival of Nash is also expected to alleviate some of the pressure on All-Star guard Kobe Bryant who has been forced into the role of the team’s top playmaker in recent years.
Gasol who is coming off what most would call a “down” year for someone of his talent level, is excited about Nash’s arrival and what it will mean to his game.
“It’s great to have one of the best point guards that ever played the game,” Gasol said according to Dan Bickley of The Arizona Republic. “And hopefully I’m going to be one of the biggest beneficiaries.”
Bryant echoed the same sentiment expressed by Gasol.
“He’s the setup man,” Bryant said. “He’s the orchestrator. He’s going to make everyone’s life a little easier.”
The buzz around the league also indicates the pairing of Nash with the Lakers will lead to improvement on the floor. Veteran forward Boris Diaw, who played with Nash in Phoenix, believes the former MVP will have a huge impact in Los Angeles.
“I think Steve is going to have a big impact,” Diaw said. “Whatever he is doing, wherever he is going, he is always getting his teammates better. He’s going to have already very good teammates (in Los Angeles), so it’s tough to make them better. But he’ll find a way.”
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