Sunday, September 2, 2007

Team USA Clinches Olympic Berth

Team USA clinched a berth in the 2008 Olympics with a 135-91 win over Puerto Rico.

In recapping the Argentina game, I warned that Michael Redd was due to find his momentarily missing shooting touch:
“Redd is far too good of a shooter to continue in this funk much longer, especially with the short three-point line, so watch for him to break out in Saturday’s all-important semifinal game against Puerto Rico.”
Redd certainly broke out against Puerto Rico, shooting 7-8 on three-pointers. If you’re wondering how it’s possible for a team to score 135 points in 40 minutes, check out Redd’s ultra-efficient statline: 23 points on 10 shots in 19 minutes. And he wasn’t alone in catching fire. Team USA made an amazing 23-36 three-pointers, further dispelling the myth that Americans can’t shoot.

Consider that Team USA shot the same percentage from the field (69.6) as from the free-throw line. And their percentage on three-pointers (63.9) wasn’t far behind. Granted, the free-throw shooting wasn’t great, but that’s just amazing stuff that simply doesn’t happen in the game of basketball.

Chris Sheridan handed out player grades for the tournament and assumed that Redd will be playing in Beijing next summer:
“Michael Redd: Started the tournament well, then cooled off, then knocked down seven of eight 3-point shots against Puerto Rico. He's fourth on the team with a 15.4 average, and he'll be a key contributor off the bench next summer. Also, coach Mike Krzyzewski has been praising his defense quite a bit. Grade: B+"
Team USA plays Argentina for gold tonight.

We’ve heard a lot about how it’s an anticlimactic final because both teams have clinched Olympic berths. But the well-earned momentum going into Beijing will be lost if Team USA fails to beat Argentina. Nothing would create more doubt and distress than if a full-strength, in-form Team USA loses the gold to Argentina of all teams. Fortunately, this team is too good and too focused to let that happen. Instead, expect a fitting culmination (read: convincing Team USA win) to a spectacular tournament for a team looking dream-like heading into Beijing next summer.

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