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The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly - U.S. Wins, But Erratically

Some thoughts after watching the U.S.-Puerto Rico game in
Japan, which the U.S. won, 111-101:

  • As talented as he is, Chris Paul still relies on gambling for steals and
    has been burned repeatedly. As a matter of fact, so far in this game,
    he's the weak link and primarily responsible for P.R.'s offensive success.
  • Carmelo Anthony and Joe Johnson are a dynamic duo and together they are
    almost impossible to control.
  • Puerto Rico has succeeded at times in forcing a slower pace, much to the
    U.S.'s detriment.
  • Dwight Howard is still a baby. By the time the Olympics come around,
    he's going to be really good. But his balance may never be that
    great. His center of gravity is pretty high.
  • Kirk Hinrich is making an argument for more time. Like Anthony and
    Johnson, he's capable of just killing a team.
  • Battier is still Battier. He just takes what the game gives him and
    busts his butt.
  • What the heck was the U.S. technical for?
  • As Al McGuire, college coach of P.R. great Butch Lee once said, cut off
    the head and the body dies. The U.S. must control the guards to
  • At times, the strategy of offense through defense has been very
    successful. But there are also a lot of times when relatively
    nonathletic players end up with open jumpers. That's to P.R's credit and a
    demerit for the U.S. defenders.
  • Too much jump shooting by the U.S. Anthony, Johnson, and Hinrich are
    all excellent, but some of the other guys need some discretion.
  • Time for LeBron to step up.
  • Foul shooting is not impressive.
  • The same basic dynamic is in place: a less talented team moves the
    ball better and so is in better scoring position. Moreover, their
    players are ready to score when they get the ball. Unlike the U.S., they're
    confident they'll hit it. The game is still alien to us in that sense
    - you wouldn't want Howard or Brand necessarily to shoot 18 footers.

The second half was much better, with the U.S. jumping out to a double digit
lead although P.R. came back to within eight. But the depth, defense, and
athleticism made it a big hill for Puerto Rico.

Still, the U.S., with a big lead, made several mistakes and wasted several
possessions in a row. The guy who saved their bacon was Shane
Battier. In the waning minutes, he blocked a key shot, tipped a shot in,
was willing to dive to the floor for the ball. For a guy who took a lot of
criticism for being on the team, it was very, very impressive - and critical. And it was precisely why he was not only included but considered a key member of the team.

The defense gave up 101 points, and far too many of them came after the U.S.
had seized control of the game. It's a young team - we were reminded of
that when Dwight Howard was pushing and shoving with Daniel Santiago - who was
10 years older. But they can't get away with a lackadaisical performance like
this against the better teams in the field.

In other news from the world basketball championship, Germany beat Japan
81-70, and France's
Tony Parker is out with a broken finger.