After a scare against Australia and an even scarier scare against Serbia, Team USA will face France in its last game of group play on Sunday afternoon. The two big questions for the Americans:
Will they start sharing the ball as well as their opponents do?
Will they defend as well as their personnel suggests that they should?
It’s still clear that Team USA is the overwhelming favorite in Rio de Janeiro, but the last couple of games have been sloppy. If they learn from their mistakes, then that’s bad news for France. If they don’t, then this could be another close one. Even though France has underwhelmed in Rio, they have comparable talent to Australia and Serbia.
Paul George made no secret of his displeasure with how Team USA is playing. He said that they were “easy to guard” and they need to “man up” on defense. The offensive issues were predictable coming into this tournament — this roster is superb, but it does not have a pass-first point guard. The defensive issues, however, are a surprise.
George, Jimmy Butler and Klay Thompson are three of the best perimeter defenders in the world. DeAndre Jordan is one of the best rim protectors, rebounders and pick-and-roll defenders. Draymond Green and Kevin Durant can guard just about anybody. Coach Mike Krzyzewski wants Team USA to play pressure defense, switch most screens, force turnovers and push the ball in transition. Given that everyone is playing fewer minutes than they do in the NBA, this seemed like a sound strategy. It has worked before.
The problem has been in the execution. Ball movement has generated open shots against Team USA, especially when it hasn’t had a chance to set its defense. The communication and focus has to be there, and it’s always a challenge to get comfortable with that when you’ve only been playing together for a few weeks.
France could be trouble. Tony Parker, Nando de Colo, Nicolas Batum and Boris Diaw are all good passers. Rudy Gobert is a rim protector unlike anyone Team USA has seen in Rio. Depth is a massive advantage for the United States, but it was in the last two games, too. It’s time for Team USA to clean things up.
Courtesy: CBS Sports