Basketball: USA Basketball Exhibition Game-China at USA

Team USA beat Serbia 97-94 on Friday, and the small margin of victory was worrisome. It was the second straight unimpressive game for the enormous favorites at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. If you didn’t watch the game and just listened to Paul George’s comments, you would have thought he was talking about a loss.

“We just gotta start getting some movement,” George said after the game on NBCSN. “We’re relying on our natural talent so much. It’s so easy to guard us. Teams are just loading up and watching us play one-on-one.”
There was a little bit of concern about Team USA’s lack of pass-first players heading into the Olympics. Historically, when the senior men’s basketball team has gotten itself in trouble in international competition, it has been at least partially because of excessive one-on-one play.


Against Australia, Team USA needed Carmelo Anthony and Kyrie Irving to play (successful) hero ball to avoid a loss. Against Serbia, they were lucky that Bogdan Bogdanovic missed a wide-open 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have tied it.

Looking at the numbers, though, it’s not all about the offense stagnating. Serbia shot 51.7 percent against Team USA’s supposedly amazing defense, including 40 percent from 3-point range. Australia shot 50 percent.
“Defensively is where we have to man up,” George said, via TIME’s Sean Gregory.

George told reporters that Team USA was getting worn down because of all the movement and cutting. This was exactly what wasn’t supposed to happen, given the amount of quick, athletic, long players on the roster.


“In our game, there’s movement obviously,” George said. “With these guys, it’s constant movement. We talked about it in the back. You never sit still. In our game, there are moments when you sit still. You can have a rest period. You might get action that guys just run on one side. [Against Serbia], you’re constant moving from side to side. They don’t get tired.”

So, what’s the problem: isolation basketball or poor defense? George is sort of saying that it’s both. He is right, and his teammate, Draymond Green, explained it as well as you can.

“I think our offense is hurting our defense as well,” Green said, via TIME. “When we were moving the basketball early on, everything was flowing, the defense was great. When we stop moving the basketball, everything is stagnant. It transferred over to the defensive end.”

Essentially, Team USA can get away with the lack of ball movement and still put up good scoring numbers. That’s the nice thing about having an overwhelming talent advantage in every game. The problems start when they don’t get back in transition or they lose focus on the defensive end. It would be easier to avoid those problems if the offense had more flow.

George was critical because he knows Team USA can get to another level, and he knows that it’s not about to get any easier — they face France on Sunday, and then the knockout stage begins. He referred to this as an adjustment period, implying that these two tough games will make them better if they learn from them. The ideal version of Team USA will force turnovers, destroy teams in transition and involve everybody in the halfcourt offense. George and everybody else involved knows that Team USA hasn’t been doing all of that lately.

Courtesy: CBS Sports


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