Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Five Observations After Team USA's Win Over Puerto Rico

Team USA defeated Puerto Rico 117-78, pushing their record to 6-0 in the FIBA Americas Championship.

LeBron James led Team USA with 21 points on 8-10 shooting from the field and 3-5 on three-pointers. He also added four rebounds and four assists.

Michael Redd scored 15 points in a team-leading 20 minutes off the bench. He made only 1-8 three-pointers, but connected on 5-6 two-pointers for a respectable 6-14 from the field.

Five more observations:

  • If Kobe Bryant wasn’t satisfied with his teammates in Los Angeles before, how do you think he is going to feel after playing in the FIBA’s for Team USA? It’s sure going to be an adjustment going back to the Lakers after spending the summer enjoying Jason Kidd’s pinpoint passing, Dwight Howard’s dominance on the glass, no double teams, fastbreaking with LeBron James, playing twenty minutes per game, and winning by forty every night.
  • Puerto Rico somewhat effectively slowed down the pace in the first quarter, limiting transition opportunities and holding Team USA to 24 points. Team USA had no problem dictating the pace by the second quarter, when they outscored Puerto Rico 39-12. The opposition has been so overmatched thus far that we haven’t seen how Team USA responds in a competitive, slowed-down, half-court type of game. Granted, they force the opposition into shootouts thanks to their swarming, turnover-creating defense. And since they’ve had no trouble scoring in half-court sets when necessary, this shouldn’t be too much of a worry. Still, it should be interesting to see how Argentina tries to stop Team USA’s offensive onslaught on Thursday, August 30.
  • Amare Stoudemire, whom Bill Walton said is trying to add a three-point shot to his offensive arsenal, looked pretty good making one in the second quarter against Puerto Rico. Putting aside the fact that Stoudemire thinking he should spend time working on his three-point accuracy is mildly ridiculous, we should remember that the international three-point line is also a few feet closer than the NBA line.
  • What happened at the free-throw line against Puerto Rico? 11-23 is the stuff that kills gold medal hopes against serious competition. Team USA’s 72.2 percent from the line overall ranks in the middle of the FIBA’s pack. Interestingly, tonight’s opponent, Uruguay, is the only team in the field making and attempting more free-throws per game than Team USA.
  • After six games it's no longer too early to start surveying the FIBA Americas MVP field. Carmelo Anthony, averaging 21.7 points and 5.3 rebounds in 18.3 minutes per game might be the leading contender. Every minute on the floor he’s played authoritatively, dunking frequently and often rebounding his own misses. Other contenders include James, Bryant, Argentina’s Luis Scola, and Mexico’s Romel Beck.

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