Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Team USA Tops Mexico

Team USA improved to 5-0 after beating Mexico 127-100.

Carmelo Anthony again led the scoring barrage with 28 points. LeBron James added 19 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, two blocks and a steal in 21 minutes. James shot 6-7 from the field, 3-3 on three-pointers, and 4-4 from the line.

Michael Redd struggled for the first time in the FIBA’s. While he scored 15 points, Redd lost his outside touch, making only 1-6 three-pointers. Coach Mike Krzyzewski continued to show confidence in the Milwaukee Bucks star however. Redd's 21 minutes led all Team USA non-starters. And even on an off-night shooting, he again outplayed fellow backup guard Mike Miller, who shot 1-6 from the field and 0-4 on three-pointers in 15 minutes.

Team USA played out of sync offensively after a brilliant, 45-point first quarter outburst.

The usually poised Americans occasionally lacked court awareness and focus. Kobe Bryant continued his high-intensity play, but appeared flustered after missing a couple forced shots early and appealing to the referees for help to no avail. Bryant committed three turnovers. Redd, James, and Amare Stoudemire had two each against a Mexico team without one NBA player.

It was the first time this Team USA seemed to play overconfidently. They connected on their requisite highlight-reel plays, but too often made dangerous, lazy passes. Mexico was sharp, but Team USA would’ve been burned for more than their 12 turnovers against a better opponent.

Still, when you score 127 points and allow 100 in 40 minutes, offense isn’t the main problem. Defensively, Team USA looked very mediocre, proving to be vulnerable against Mexico’s pick-and-roll and three-point shooting. Even international defensive stalwart Bryant got crossed-over before fouling Mexico’s Romel Beck on a three-pointer, resulting in a four-point play. It’s not worth singling anyone out though, because this defensive breakdown was a team effort.

Like most 27-point wins, not everything went wrong. Despite Bryant’s rough game, he determinedly got to the free-throw line ten times, making nine. And on a cold outside shooting night for Team USA, they easily withstood Mexico’s 15 three-pointers, cruising to a victory that was never in doubt.

Jason Kidd showed again why he is the perfect Team USA court general, notching seven assists, three rebounds, three steals, and no turnovers in 19 minutes. Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard also were unstoppable in the post.

Four nearly flawless Team USA games made last night look questionable: Did they really figure out how to defend the pick-and-roll after the Greece debacle? Does this team have a problem keeping the pressure on for a full game after accumulating a big lead?

They can help answer some of those questions tonight against a Puerto Rico team rounding into form after a convincing win over Brazil.

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