U.S. Wins Big on Saturday
Posted Aug 25 2007 8:10PM
LAS VEGAS, August 25, 2007 — A high noon start and excellent air conditioning that neutralizes the 102-degree temps outside provided a favorable atmosphere for the largest (and loudest) crowd yet assembled inside the Thomas & Mack Center for the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship.
Those who came to see the U.S. team didn’t leave disappointed, either, as the senior national team routed its third straight opponent, defeating Canada, 113-63.
Saturday’s 50-point victory moved the Americans’ point differential to +157 for the tournament. That is, they’ve won by an average of 52.3 points. In other words, they haven’t really been challenged … outside the opening few minutes of each contest when each opponent is fresh and full of adrenaline. For the second straight game, the U.S. found itself down early, trailing Canada, 2-3.
That was short lived, however, as the U.S. broke open the game early when it rattled off an 11-1 run, starting with a three-point play by the team’s leading scorer Carmelo Anthony. The Nuggets' All-Star would cap the first-quarter sequence with an assist in the paint – after drawing an extra defender when his jab step and baseline drive left him an open lane to the rim – to a cutting Dwight Howard, followed by a thunderous dunk in transition to the roar of the crowd.
Anthony is the tournament’s third-leading scorer at 21.3 points per game, turned in on only 17 minutes of playing time per contest.
With all the collective firepower on the U.S. roster, it’s easy to get caught up in the spectacular offensive display, but do pay close attention to the effort the players are putting in on the other side of the ball.
“There’s a great deal of professionalism and pride on that end of the floor,” U.S. head coach Mike Krzyzewski said after Saturday’s win. “A lot of these guys have not been celebrated for their defense; they’ve been celebrated for their offense. And defense really gets us going.”
That effort starts with NBA All-Defensive first-teamer Kobe Bryant. As we have seen since Wednesday’s opening contest, Bryant is leading by example, being aggressive and suffocating players like University of Maryland sophomore Greivis Vasquez on the perimeter.
He’s able to do so and expend so much energy at that end of the floor because he’s not relied upon to carry the scoring load here, as he is in Los Angeles. That defensive intensity, in turn, is contagious.
During an early burst by the U.S., another All-Defensive first-team member, Jason Kidd, forced Canada’s Jermaine Anderson baseline, where he blocked the point guard’s pull-up jumper. Anderson got the ball back after a bad pass by LeBron James, but Canada still couldn’t add points to the board despite a mismatch with James bodying 6-10 Jesse Young in the paint. As Young went up for what appeared a rather easy two points, Dwight Howard came from out top to protect the basket and swat the shot attempt.
“Our defense is very, very good right now,” Coach K said, “and the more we play the better the talk is. They talk to each other out there so it looks like they’re playing as one – and they are.”
What might pass as a good, clean – if hard – foul in the NBA doesn’t fly in international ball. As we’ve seen a number of times already in the tournament, if a guy has a step on you in transition and you knick him, you’re getting whistled for an unsportsmanlike foul. The penalty: two shots and the ball on the side.
Such was the case midway through the second quarter when Michael Redd was soundly smacked across the wrist by Juan Mendez as he was going in for a fastbreak layup, the result of a steal.
Redd knocked down both freebies and Amare Stoudemire then drew a three-point play opportunity on the ensuing possession. On a good day from the line for the U.S. – the team hit 20 of 22 attempts – Stoudemire converted for the five-point swing.
A lesson to the players reading: Sometimes it’s best to give up the easy two.
There’s this odd occurrence in international ball: Coaches actually let their big men hang out beyond the arc and hoist three-pointers. That doesn’t fly in the NBA unless your name is Mehmet Okur or Rasheed Wallace.
Could you imagine Shaq calling for a three? How about Philadelphia’s Samuel Dalembert, who is 0-for-4 from downtown in his five-year NBA career?
“I’ve been talking to the guys for the longest time saying, ‘The guy’s going to let me stand out there and shoot that, I’m going to hit it,’” Dalembert said after attempting a three from the top of the arc. “Today, I had to hit it.”
So, will Dalembert be asking Maurice Cheeks if he can spot up outside from time to time?
“No,” he said with a laugh. “I’ll leave that to Kyle Korver.”
“It was good to see him wearing the same color as all of our coaching staff,” USA Senior National Team managing director Jerry Colangelo said. “He looked like one of the staff guys.”
Colangelo said he knew Wade, who attended the team’s mini-camp here in July, was coming back to support his teammates.
“To me, that says mountains about him.”
It’s such a move off the court – to go with those he makes on it – that will have Wade suiting up for the team again in the near future.
“Dwyane Wade is a class guy,” Colangelo said. “He is a big part of USA Basketball. He was one of the first people I spoke with before the World Championships in the summer last year. Obviously, if he were not injured, he would have been here participating (this summer). And the mere fact that he’s here to support his teammates says a great deal about him. Obviously we’re looking forward to seeing Dwyane Wade with us – assuming we take care of our business this summer and qualify – and getting ready for Beijing. You can look forward to Dwyane Wade in a USA uniform.”