Size advantage, depth give Team USA decided edge
POSTED: Aug 16, 2016 10:27 PM ET
UPDATED: Aug 17, 2016 9:26 AM ET
Durant, Krzyzewski, Irving At Tuesday's Practice
Durant On Argentina Matchup: "We've Got To Be Ready To Play"
RIO DE JANEIRO — The United States Men's National Team played Argentina less than a month ago in Las Vegas. It was the USA's first exhibition game as it prepared for the Olympics and it won by 37 points.
And after three close wins in which their defense looked terrible, the Americans are looking at a favorable matchup in the Olympic quarterfinals on Wednesday (5:45 p.m. ET). Tougher opponents (Spain, specifically) were possible matchups in the quarters and are looming in the next round.
GameTime: U.S. Men's National Team
NBA TV brings you footage from the U.S. Men's National Team's practice from Tuesday in Rio.
Against Argentina, the U.S. will have a size advantage at every position in the starting lineup. It will also have a huge advantage in regard to depth, because the Argentina bench has been pretty terrible and its three starters that are 36 and over -- Manu Ginobili, Andres Nocioni and Luis Scola -- will be playing their sixth game in 11 days. Nocioni played more than 47 minutes in Saturday's double-overtime win over Brazil.
But one thing will definitely be on Argentina's side on Wednesday. And that's the crowd. The game is in Brazil and a USA-Brazil game would have created a wild atmosphere at Carioca Arena 1 in Olympic Park. But USA-Argentina will be only slightly less wild. The Argentine fans have shown up in great volume, both in regard to how many of them are here and in how loud they are.
There will be chanting and singing and lots of cheering. All that will certainly give the U.S. opponent a lift. USA coach Mike Krzyzewski spoke about Argentina's "spirit" with great reverence on Tuesday, and that spirit will only be strengthened by a passionate crowd which knows that it could be witnessing the final game for Ginobili, Nocioni, Scola and Carlos Delfino in an Argentina uniform.
"They're amazing together," Krzyzewski said. "They're a brotherhood. They've been together for a long time. And they play the game in a beautiful fashion, because they play it technically well, but then they add their spirit and teamwork to it, which takes what they do technically to another level."
GameTime: Aldridge From Rio
TNT's David Aldridge reports on the U.S. Men's National Team and dishes on how they can improve going into the medal rounds in the 2016 Olympics.
The question is how the crowd will affect the Americans, for whom it will be a true road game. The environment will be something that several of them have never experienced. It will be very different from any NBA crowd. It could shake the Americans, or it could engage them.
"Maybe that's what we need to kind of kickstart us and give us a little jolt of energy, a little bit more energy than we've had," Kevin Durant said. "Everybody wants us to lose, especially down here."
Durant is one guy who has represented the U.S. in front of that kind of crowd. In the 11 years that Mike Krzyzewski has been the U.S. Team's coach, there hasn't been a more hostile environment than the one in Istanbul for the USA vs. Turkey gold-medal game of the 2010 World Championship. And by the end of the night, the crowd could do nothing but appreciate the performance of Durant, whose 28 points led the U.S. to a 17-point victory.
That U.S. Team supported Durant with great defense. This edition, however, hasn't lived up to the defensive standard set by previous ones.
We got to get back to what the previous teams were about.
– Paul George
"We got to get back to what the previous teams were about," Paul George said. "We took a lot of pride in that. We got to get back to having that mind set, that approach.
"A lot of us are not used to being this, I guess, alert over a full shot clock. [Opposing teams] are constantly moving, constantly cutting, constantly screening. The motion that they run and the level of speed that they run at, you can't even practice through that. It kind of just hits you right on the spot. At the end of the day, it's all an adjustment."
It may be a personnel issue more than a focus issue. And Krzyzewski will have to decide if he can continue to give big minutes to a starting lineup that features three defensive liabilities. That lineup -- Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Durant, Carmelo Anthony and DeMarcus Cousins -- allowed France to score 52 points in less than 20 minutes on Sunday.
Over 10 games (five exhibitions and five pool-play games), the U.S. has been its best defensively with Kyle Lowry on the floor. In the last three games, it's been at its best defensively with George on the floor. The pair could provide a lift against that weak Argentina bench, but will Krzyzewski stick with his best defenders down the stretch of a close game?
The pressure turns up on Wednesday. With three (or fewer) games to go, the U.S. defense has to improve now. And it will have to improve in an environment unlike anything it's seen thus far.
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