USA Basketball Advances to Gold Medal Match
Team USA pushed past Australia on Thursday morning to secure a spot in the gold medal match vs. France, who beat them earlier in the tournament. This team has been a hot topic of conversation as late ago as early last month when they lost two straight exhibition matches.
They were without NBA Finals players Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton, and Devin Booker, but that didn’t seem like a great excuse at the time with how dominant the US team has looked in the past.
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In the Mix for Olympics Gold
The men had claimed three straight titles dating back to 2004 when a team full of stars like LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Tim Duncan, and Allen Iverson lost a stunner in the semifinals and got bronze.
The US Mens’ team has been hit or miss over the course of history, with it really not becoming a mainstream piece of the basketball calendar until the 1992 “Dream Team” stepped up and put a star-studded lineup into the tournament. Since then, Team USA is 6 for 7 in gold medals outside of the 2004 team.
This has caused a bit of fatigue surrounding the roster and that was cause for concern. The biggest stars on the team are Kevin Durant and Damian Lillard, but you were without USA regulars like LeBron James, Paul George, and many others that have joined throughout their career.
I don’t think it would be a stretch to suggest that you could attempt to make a better USA team with the players NOT playing than the players that are. This, combined with the losses, was reason for concern.
Shaky Start for Team USA
Team USA struggled in game one and lost to a France team that could field a lineup of NBA rotation players or better, even though Nando de Colo is not playing in the NBA. This will be their matchup in the gold medal match and it will be very interesting to see if this assumed improvement from the US team is legit.
After this game, Damian Lillard made headlines suggesting that international players have “more freedom, and the comfort level is obvious” when they are playing with their national team. This was clearly in reference to someone like Evan Fournier, who had 28 points in that game.
After that loss, the US cruised to victories throughout, putting up 120 and 119 points in a 40-minute game, which is ridiculous. Even in tournament play, the US beat Spain handily by 14 in the round of 8. Things got a bit sketchier last night, even if the scoreline doesn’t suggest that.
The US team beat the Aussies 97-78, which sounds like a snoozefest and an easy win, right? Well, they were down 3 at halftime and were really struggling to find offense outside of Kevin Durant, who has been the best player on the team. Funny enough, the US went on a 32-10 run in the third quarter and just broke the game wide open due to a trio of players stepping up in the second half.
The three missing players throughout the exhibition games Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton, and Devin Booker. These three were behind only Durant in scoring on Team USA and that should give people a lot of confidence moving into the game vs. France.
While there was no reason for this team to lose any game this year, this emergence of the three players that were missing makes it feel like they ARE a different team now.
Wrapping Things Up
Moving into that final, I expect the US to roll here in a high-scoring affair. I love the over 176 and the US, especially their team total. They are out for blood and I think a lot about that first game was flukey, particularly for the US on offense.
Kevin Durant was in major foul trouble, only playing 20 minutes while he tried to play the entire fourth quarter before fouling out. They seem to realize KD is the clear star here and are willing to give him, Holiday and Booker star player minutes. Holiday played a lot in the first meeting, but Booker played less than 20 minutes and Middleton only played 5.
I expect all of them to exceed their previous minute totals vs. France and we should see both Jrue Holiday and Devin Booker in the starting lineup.
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