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Welcome to the quarterfinal round for Team USA versus Australia, which advanced to the medal round on a buzzer-beater against Russia in their final pool game Tuesday. While the Americans are heavy favorites and won’t expect much resistance on the scoreboard, this is a prideful opponent who will be sure to give a tough matchup from start to finish. Let’s hope for some fireworks, both physically and verbally.
- Same starting lineup as always, with Paul and Bryant in the backcourt and Durant, James, and Chandler bringing up the front. It’ll be interesting to see if the minutes start to look somewhat different now that we are in elimination games, although it’s unlikely to be an issue tonight.
- To my absolute dismay, my no-commentators channel seems to be no more. Must have just been for the preliminary games. This really sucks. At least they have Craig Sager reporting on the sidelines so I can still have the occasional laugh.
- These talking dudes can certainly be of some use. For instance, after Durant opens the scoring with a triple (what else?), they inform me that KD is sticking to my pseudo-prediction of shooting over 60% from distance for the tournament.
- Australia doesn’t have much in terms of recognizable names, but point guard Patty Mills, backup for the Spurs, sure has some talent. He has a couple early triples to keep the Aussies close.
- Chandler picks up two quick fouls, something that’s becoming a regular part of each game. He really needs to get this under control if they end up facing Spain in the final. The second is an Unsportsmanlike Foul, the international equivalent of a flagrant. The game is already picking up a little bit of an edge.
- Our talking heads inform me that the Aussies are known as the “Boomers.” Seems appropriate. When these guys foul you, you know it. No soft baskets in this one.
- LeBron came to play early in his typical international mode, contributing everywhere. He already has several rebounds and three pretty assists to go along with a couple points. A few problems finishing for the Americans, though, and it’s only a three point lead.
- These commentators aren’t bad, but I really wish I could have my old channel back. These guys don’t tell me anything I don’t already know other than a few statistical nuggets, and I’d trade that for the hilarity of hearing every word the players yell in a second. As it is, I’ve lost basically all of that because they turn down the on-court microphones while the heads are talking.
- You think I’m obsessed with LeBron? He’s having a great all-around game, sure, but these guys have hardly said a word about anyone else so far. Meanwhile, the rest of the team has 23 of their 25 points and they lead by nine as James hits the bench for a rest, already with six rebounds and three dimes.
- I’m even more frustrated about the lack of on-court volume when cameras show David Stern in the front row along with Jerry Colangelo. Imagine how funny it would have been to hear Kobe give him some shit from the court. This is not cool.
- It’s 28-21 after a quarter of play as Mills slashes to the hoop for a layup. This guy is clearly the best player on the Boomer squad.
- Not that it’s much of an accomplishment against this team, but the defense was better in that first quarter, holding the Aussies to 33% both overall and from beyond the arc. Our friendly commentators inform me that there have already been 19 fouls called between the teams, and I wouldn’t expect that trend to change if the gap on the scoreboard keeps widening.
- The gap is still single digits somehow, as the US seems to have gotten a little lazy in the middle of the quarter. Have to hope this kind of thing isn’t an issue in the next two games; it’s been a frequent problem for these guys so far.
- A graphic on screen shows LeBron just passed Charles Barkley for third all-time in US Olympic points after a three and a layup. He’s just 48 short of David Robinson for the top spot and it’ll be interesting to see if they need his scoring enough over the next two and a half games for him to take that title from the Admiral.
- Durant picks up a pretty lame offensive foul for his third, something that could be a concern later. Probably not though, as the lead has opened up to 16. LeBron is really on form, with 10 boards, seven points and five assists and several minutes still to go in the first half. These are 10 minute quarters, don’t forget.
- 56-42 US at the half. Really not a super convincing performance, but they don’t need anything spectacular against this team. The half is the only time so far where the commentators are silent and I’ll be listening keenly for some comedy.
- As if to prove my point, the US’s mediocre stats are up on the board now. Just 43% for the half against this team is kind of pathetic, and going 73% from the line is never acceptable. Luckily, all their percentages are significantly higher than the other guys, as Australia seems hugely overmatched by the defensive efforts of the Americans.
- Two Australia threes and a sloppy Durant turnover which lead to a layup have this back to a six point game quick. Then Kobe pulls another selfish move for a turnover on a three-on-two (he is 0-4 with three turnovers), taking an offensive foul with a wide-open LeBron right next to him on the fast break. The ensuing triple from Australia is good and all of a sudden it’s just a three-point lead. Coach K takes a much-needed timeout.
- In international play they include a stat called “fouls drawn”, which is self explanatory – it tracks the number of fouls each player has taken on them for the entire tournament. I’m not sure why this isn’t a more popular measure in the NBA. They have free throws attempted, sure, but that doesn’t cover every foul committed on a guy. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this become more prevalent in North America before long.
- Kobe finally comes to life and hits a couple straight threes. LeBron remains focused and the lead is ballooning back up, it’s 14 again now.
- Deron Williams is having a better game today, but I maintain that he needs to quit hogging the ball so much. He’s surrounded by scorers, it’s not like New Jersey or Utah where he was both the best passer and the best shooter. His job here is to create buckets and let the gunners finish, not to bring the ball up the court and shoot without passing.
- It’s a 14-point lead at the end of three, and the US effort continues to underwhelm. They are still on 43% shooting while they’ve allowed Australia to boost their own percentage up to 48%. A team from Australia simply should not be shooting a higher percentage than the United States.
- I can’t claim to be the first one to have noticed this, but the US has been far too willing to settle for the long jumpers throughout this tournament. It’s starting to show up again tonight. Paul gets a mismatch against a forward off a switch with 12 seconds still on the shot clock, but instead of using his superior speed to penetrate he settles for a long triple. The lazy plays aren’t going away yet even as many other parts of the team improve.
- LeBron is two assists away from a triple-double, with 11 points, 13 boards and eight dimes. He also has seven fouls drawn, which seems like a remarkable amount but given my inexperience with the stat could actually be fairly close to his average for a game.
- A bit late for my taste, but the blowout is finally on. Kobe finally gets off the schneid with three consecutive triples a la Carmelo versus Nigeria, and the US goes on a booming run to stretch the lead to 28. The starters are out and in comes the Unibrow. Yeah, buddy.
- Dammit, second straight game Davis gets a lob and misses it. Then he goes up for a layup and gets rejected by some Aussie. You’re really not cutting it, Unibrow. I expect more.
- Even Craig Sager is disappointing me today. No goofy suit, just a regular old arena outfit. It’s like no one wants me to have anything to laugh about. I feel like the whole world is against me.
- Final score is 119-86. Honestly, this doesn’t really reflect the game. The US never put these guys away until very late despite having plenty of chances to do so. An effort like this might not have done the job against a better opponent. On the bright side, Kobe finally had a breakout half in the second, finishing with six triples and his first Kobe-like game of the tournament. Not to be outdone, LeBron put up the Games’ first triple-double (as far as I’m aware) in his best all-around performance so far. It’s good to see two of the bigger stars on the team heating up at the most important time. If Durant can join them from here on out and Chandler can stay on the court for a few minutes here and there, this should be a relatively easy run to gold for the USA in London.
By Ben Dowsett (@ben_dowsett)
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