U.S.A.’s ’Practice’ Near Perfection Against Canada
Posted Jul 27 2008 3:59PM
LAS VEGAS, July 25, 2008 -- With two men who symbolize what the American dream is all about – Bill Gates and Warren Buffett – sitting courtside, the latest incarnation of the U.S. Men’s Senior National “Dream Team” kicked off its quest for the gold with a dominant 120-65 rout of the Canadian Men’s Senior National Team at the Thomas & Mack Center on Friday.
U.S.A. only led by six points after the first quarter but used a 90-41 extended spurt the rest of the way to blow the game wide open.
A 55-point win against a team that featured only one NBA player, Joel Anthony (a D-League call-up by the Heat last season), wasn’t about to excite head coach Mike Krzyzewski too much, however.
In fact, Krzyzewski didn’t even refer to Friday night as a game.
“For our fifth day of practice, we showed a lot of energy,” Krzyzewski said to open up his postgame comments.
Oh wait, does that make it his post-practice comments? Whatever.
The absence of LeBron James, who sat out with a bum ankle didn’t seem to faze the U.S. one bit, as it started Dwyane Wade in his place, essentially playing a three-guard lineup, to begin the game. Wade finished the game with 20 points, tied for the game-high honors with Carmelo Anthony and Michael Redd.
Wade, who missed the last 21 games of the 2007-08 regular season with a knee injury, looked to be his old ball-hawking, rim-attacking self.
“He’s back,” Chris Paul said. “When he’s aggressive like that, we’re a different team.”
Canada’s head coach Leo Rautins, who recently was ousted by Croatia in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament was asked how he thinks the U.S. team stacks up against the competition he saw in Athens.
"Greece is a very, very good team ... Germany - obviously Dirk Nowitzki gives them a real unique look ... Croatia is a team that plays extremely well together ... It's very difficult to compare at this point, but obviously [the U.S. players] have to be the favorites going into any game," said the Canadian coach.
Rautins was generous with his praise, calling the U.S. team, “the most talented team without a question in the world,” and repeatedly marveled at its quickness and depth throughout the postgame press conference.
He even went as far as to say that he felt bad for his point guard, Jermaine Anderson, who really was the only player on Canada to have a productive game. Anderson scored 18 points on 6-for-9 shooting and handled the U.S.A.’s defensive pressure, only coughing up one turnover while playing heavy minutes at point guard.
Unfortunatley, Anderson’s teammates committed 23 other miscues which led to 43 points for Coach K’s crew.
“You can’t make any mistakes, at all,” Rautins said.
Paul (11 points, eight assists) emphasized that the U.S. has “too much invested” from the last three years not to play well this summer. The investment is paying off, as Rautins and Anderson both noted that the U.S. seemed to have gotten even more cohesive as a unit since it waxed Canada by 50 in last summer’s FIBA Americas Tournament.
Krzyzewski, meanwhile, thought his team improved X’s and O’s wise, particularly in its pick-and-roll defense. It’s sort of a chicken or the egg conundrum that U.S.A. Basketball is glad to be a part of: Does smart play breed camaraderie or does camaraderie breed smart play?
The U.S. shot a sizzling 44-of-67 from the field (.657) and there were several sequences that seemed almost unfair, like when Anthony scored on a tough fadeaway and two dunks in the span of just 1:14 in the second quarter …
Or when Redd and Paul hit back-to-back-to-back threes in the third quarter and took just 55 seconds to do it …
Or, and this was the most compelling example of the U.S. commanding the game, in the fourth with the U.S. already up by 37, when Jason Kidd threw a lead pass to Anthony who caught it too far under the basket to do anything with it so he whipped it behind his back to a trailing Chris Bosh who promptly took off from about Reno and soared through the air to shake the rim with a two handed slam.
That might sound dominant enough, but a mere 18 seconds later, Wade ripped his game-high third steal and coasted in uncontested for a windmill dunk that featured even more hang time and sent the crowd into a raucous state of complete delirium.
There are still things the United States can work on, however, starting with protecting the ball (the U.S. team had 19 turnovers), defending the perimeter (Canada shot 5-for-8 from three in the first quarter and also got fouled on another shot from deep that resulted in three more points) and fine tuning its full-court press (early on, Canada’s Anderson was able to take it coast to coast against the pressure and toss up a lob to Joel Anthony when Dwight Howard committed to the guard and later in the game Bosh was beat by a baseball pass and let Rans Brempong leak behind him when he was supposed to be the last man back).
Still, without James playing a minute, without Kidd registering either a point or an assist and without Kobe Bryant playing spectacularly (15 points, four turnovers, four fouls), the U.S. made it look like as lopsided of a match this side of Cookie Monster vs. Chips Ahoy.
If we agree that practice makes perfect and then heed Coach K’s word and look at Friday as just the fifth day of practice for the U.S., and then consider the fact that the team still has 13 days left to practice before the Olympics begin on Aug. 8, then this team has a chance to be insanely successful.
We’re talking Berkshire Hathaway or Microsoft level success.