Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Another example of how defense wins games

Watched yesterday's Team USA-Australia game with a group of coaches from St. Mary's. It was a fairly close game, though the Americans were never really in jeopardy of losing.

[Here's the box score from the game.]

While the Australians were really connecting on their shots, Team USA didn't shoot ball well from the perimeter. Again, when in the half court, we struggle more than in the open floor in transition where the Americans are unstoppable. Team USA's best offense comes from defensive pressure that leads to transition offense.

Coach K's team loves to attack in transition and will often throw ahead and then throw the ball back out or backwards (i.e., "north") in transition.

In their half-court offense, Team USA really looks to get to the rim. A general lack of a low post game against the Australians and poor shooting from the perimeter hurt the U.S. in this game.

Offensively, Australia ran versions of the Princeton offense, the 2-guard "chin" look and some flair screens.

What changed the game was the defensive pressure, which caused turnovers in the second period. That one big defensive quarter, when the U.S. held Australia to 10 points, was the key to the game.

Team USA did a good job of getting to the foul line, but they hit only 60 percent of their free throws. Dwight Howard was 0-6 from the line.

Keep in mind that the Aussies were without Andrew Bogut, who was out with an injury. With him in the lineup, Australia is a much better team.

It was fun to watch the game with the St. Mary's coaches as one of their players, Patrick Mills, plays for the Australian team.

For a 19-year-old kid, he played with terrific confidence and was aggressive, scoring 13 points in 21 minutes. Most impressive was that he only turned the ball over once against a good defensive team.

Having watched him play a dozen or so games last season at St. Mary's, his solid play in this game didn't surprise me.

With the opening ceremony of the Games only two days away, there still needs to be some sorting out at the point position. Team USA is still playing three point guards, all of whom are used to having the ball in their hands and running an offense at the NBA level. I don't think that can last. It will be interesting to see who gets the bulk of the minutes at that position.

The ability to defend quick, penetrating point guards will be a key. Patrick Mills got in lane yesterday and Carlos Arroyo hurt Team USA on penetrations in the past.

Beyond that, who takes game-winning shots down the stretch of close games? Kobe? Wade? James? It might be a moot point, but that will be something to watch for.

Finally, Team USA has the best wing players in the world on its roster. But there are a lot of them. Will T. Prince and M. Redd get any minutes?