By Craig Kwasniewski
There's no repeat of Athens as Team USA beats Puerto Rico 111-100. Making sure I didn't miss out on the World Championship fever (???), I watched the game. It was a tale of two halves and USA played poorly in the first half but clamped down in defensively the third quarter, taking a 20 point lead, ending any chance of repeat of the 2004 Olympics when Puerto Rico beat USA 92-73.
Here's a few observations from the game:
First Half Ugliness: USA came out with the worst first half of the summer. They came out disorganized, confused and listless. Basically it looked like Athens 2004 all over again. I think they dedicated the first half to Larry Brown. All they needed was LB whining constantly on the sidelines about poor team composition.
Anyway, poor fundamentals reigned supreme in the first half. Missed freethrows, a technical foul for six players on the floor, many traveling calls (and not all on Wade), a five second call on an inbounds play... it was awful to watch. Maybe it was the jitters from the opening game for the World Championships or there's a killer casino/strip club scene in Sapporo, Japan. Whatever it was, they got out of their funk by playing hard nosed defense in the third quarter.
Carlos Arroyo is the Puerto Rican Tim Thomas: Let me explain... First, let's ask the fans from Toronto, Denver, Utah, Detroit and Orlando how good of a player Arroyo is. In the NBA, he's a back-up point guard at best. So, how does a guy who's played for five NBA teams in five seasons average 22.6 ppg. against Team USA? (22.6 in three competitive games, not exhibitions) Tim Thomas was a waste for the Sixers, Bucks, Knicks and Bulls yet for two months with Phoenix he's All-Star material. If only Arroyo brought his Puerto Rico game to the NBA...
Zone Defense? With every Puerto Rican guard blowing by his man and getting to the hoop for a bucket or foul, Team USA might want to consider mixing in some zone defense. The help defense was slow to rotate and Puerto Rico was isolating the guards at the top of the key and aggressively taking it to the hole with ease. The bigs need to improve their rotations and not worry too much about their man hitting the mid-range jumper if they helped on the drives. I know one of Team USA's defensive principles is strong on-the-ball defense, but this also leaves the defense vulnerable to penetration. Mixing in a some zone could confuse the opposition and slow down the penetration.
Carmelo Anthony: His game is continually improving. There was a stretch in the second half when he dominated on the offensive end. He scored in the post, off pull-up jumpers and off drives. Of carryover players from Athens 2004, he's playing with the biggest chip on his shoulder. I'm looking forward to his matching up with Argentina.