Wednesday, August 08, 2012

LeBron and Kobe Shine Against Australia

Australia hung around in the first half and stormed back at the outset of the third quarter on the strength of Patty Mills's brilliant play. He is to Australia what Carlos Arroyo was to Puerto Rico and what Tony Parker is to France. He finished with 26 points.

The U.S. didn't show a great amount of defensive intensity early. Australia found themselves near the bucket time and again, but missed layups repeatedly. There was a brief period at the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second and then again at the end of the second in which the U.S. showed better energy on defense.

LeBron James controlled the game in the first half, though not by scoring frequently. Deron Williams also played well. Kevin Love has had a very fine Olympics and continued that trend. Williams had 18 points and Love had a double double.

Australia spent much of the first half fouling. But, unlike 2008's quarterfinal matchup between these two teams, they weren't able to muster the same kind of free throw defense this time. The U.S. was an adequate 22 for 32 for the game. Australia's dearth of bigmen hurt them due to the foul trouble.

Kobe Bryant, who has had a poor offensive Olympics, finally turned on the switch. Chris Paul drove and kicked to Bryant, who nailed a three. That created a 20-point avalanche for Bryant. Kobe's play triggered the rest of the Americans to take control of the game. The faucet was turned on and Australia was powerless to turn it off.

Carmelo Anthony shot well for the first time in a couple games, but James was the story. He posted a triple double and his statistics don't truly explain his greatness in this game. He knew when to pass and which target to hit. He scored when needed. He rebounded effectively. And his defense was strong.

The U.S. shot 19 for 46 from beyond the arc. With this team, simply viewing the statistics does not tell the three point tale. Early in the game, the U.S. attacked Australia's zone. When Australia switched to man, the U.S. had a brief moment of forcing up threes in the first quarter. But, for the most part, the U.S.'s threes were either wide open off penetration or in transition. Forty six threes are an awful lot, but most came in the flow of the game.

The U.S. won 119-86, but the game was more hotly contested than the score shows. Argentina is next on the agenda for the U.S. in the semis. This has become somewhat of a heated rivalry as Argentina has finagled the referees by constantly flopping and picking fights with American players. It should be a rough one.

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