USA will need more than Durant

BY foxsports • September 11, 2010

TEAM USA 89, LITHUANIA 74

The relatively close final margin is no indication of how firmly Team USA controlled the entire game.

Going into the gold-medal game, the Americans are certainly peaking. However, there remain several potentially fatal holes in their game plan.

REASONS TO BELIEVE

The Americans were quick to offer helping hands on every ball penetration. This led to blocked shots, steals and breakaways. When the Lithuanians did manage to break the quick-hands barrier and get to the rim, the final challenge presented by the likes of Lamar Odom and Andre Iguodala at the very least turned ostensibly easy layups into complicated ones. As a result, Lithuania was limited to 38.6 percent shooting from the field.

Team USA’s wing-deny wing defense was likewise lethal. As was the dig-defense whenever Lithuania attempted hand-offs at close quarters.

Overall, the defensive rotations were the best they’ve been in the tournament thus far.

As ever, Team USA’s transition offense was exceptional. The Lithuanians simply could not cope with the Americans' open-field quickness and warp-speed changes of direction. The winners registered a total of 23 points on the run at the cost of only two turnovers.

While the opponents were bigger and perhaps stronger, the quicker hops of the Americans resulted in plentiful offensive rebounds and put-backs.

But Team USA’s most overwhelming advantage was Kevin Durant. Paced by his 38 points (on 14-for-26 shooting), its iso-game was irresistible—combining to score18 points in 15 one-on-one forays. Even against zones, KD was able to fake, dance, spin and pull to create highly makeable shots. Against man-to-man defenses, Durant was even more of a dreadnaught point-maker. Should the USA should win on Sunday it will be primarily because Durant’s game is golden.

REASONS TO BE WORRIED

Despite the improvement in Team USA’s baseline rotations, Lithuania scored an alarming total of 20 points off screen/roll plays—most of them, though, in the first half.

The U.S. forced 10 shots, a reminder that this squad is the youngest in the competition.

Chauncey Billups' defense was repeatedly attacked for profit.

The rather crude Lithuanian big men still managed to tally 12 points in low-post moves (compared to only four scored in the same fashion by the Americans). This is the highest total yielded in this department by Team USA.

But the most frightening aspect of the game was the Americans' unsatisfactory response to Lithuania’s zone defenses. For sure, an occasional cross-cut was open, the speedy American wings and guard could often zip through the seams, and KD could simply operate from the top against a much smaller defender. However, the Americans worked against a total of 32 zone situations, scoring only 20 points and committing five turnovers.

Shooting over the top of the zones, the Americans' success rate was a mere 32.0 percent. And aside from Durant, his teammates shot only 41.3 percent all told.

This could very well be a significant problem if the gold-medal game is a close one.

If the Americans were good in group play, and better so far in the medal round, to win on Sunday in the most blatantly hostile environment possible, they’ll have to be at their absolute best.

If you have a question, comment or column idea for Charley Rosen, please email rosenroundball@gmail.com and he may respond in a future column.



share story