U.S. Sends Another Message With Blowout of Spain
Posted Aug 16 2008 9:55PM
BEIJING, August 16, 2008 -- The U.S. Men's Senior National Team should have no doubters now.
Coming into Saturday's much-anticipated matchup with Spain, the U.S. had won its first three games comfortably but had done it while shooting just 29 percent from three-point range and just 64 percent from the foul line.
The doubters thought that poor shooting would be the eventual downfall of the Americans. Others wondered what would happen if they started shooting well.
Well, what would happen is that they would beat Spain by 37 points.
The U.S. saved its best game of pool play for its best opponent, handing World Champion Spain a 119-82 spanking Saturday night at the Wukesong Culture and Sports Center. In a dominant and convincing performance, the U.S. shot 58 percent from the field, including 12-of-25 from downtown, while also shooting 79 percent from the line.
The win put the U.S. at 4-0 in pool play and clinched the top seed in Group B. After finishing the round robin phase with a game against Germany on Monday, the Americans face the fourth-place finisher in Group A - likely Australia - on Wednesday.
Carmelo Anthony, who had hit just 3-of-8 shots from beyond the arc in his first three games in Beijing, got the U.S. going early on this night. After three straight empty U.S. possessions, Kobe Bryant made the extra pass to an open Anthony on the left wing, and he knocked it down to tie the game at seven in the opening minutes.
After LeBron James' three and several fast break points, Deron Williams found Anthony open again on the left wing, and he knocked another one down. The three-point barrage continued in the second quarter, when the U.S. hit 4-of-5 from downtown.
For the game, Anthony shot 6-for-8 from the field, including 4-of-6 from beyond the arc.
"It's the same shots I was taking in the last couple games," he said. "They just went in tonight."
Coach Mike Krzyzewski even had a hot hand, calling on Tayshaun Prince - who didn't play until garbage time of Thursday's win over Greece - to start the second period. And Prince made an immediate impact.
On the U.S. Team's second possession of the quarter, with Spain switching to zone, James found Prince in the corner, and he calmly stroked a three. After a miss by Juan Carlos Navarro, Prince and James hooked up on a give-and-go alley-oop on the break, with James throwing down a one-handed flush.
Even with the hot shooting, the Americans' tenacious defense was again the key to victory. They forced 28 Spain turnovers, 17 of them in the first half, when the game was decided. Spain actually shot 8-for-13 in the first quarter, but nine turnovers had it nine points behind at the end of one.
The first possession of the game was an indication of things to come. Spain got the ball to Pau Gasol in the low post, and James came over to double-team him. Gasol immediately lost the ball, starting a fast break where Jason Kidd found a trailing James for a layup to open the scoring.
All night, the U.S. pressured the ball and closed up passing lanes. Every Spanish dribble had a U.S. hand ready to poke it away. If a Spanish player thought he had his man beat, that man was already getting back to intercept the pass when his teammate stepped in to help. When a U.S. player fronted the post, his teammate helped from the wing to knock away the lob pass.
Spain looked nothing like the team that had won its first three games. It was out of sync and looked two steps slow against the quicker Americans. Gasol turned the ball over five times total, while the veteran backcourt of Navarro and Jose Calderon combined to shoot 3-for-19 from the field.
On the other side of the floor, a total of eight U.S. players scored in double figures, led by James with 18 (to go along with eight dimes), Anthony with 16, and of course, Dwyane Wade with 16 as well. Meanwhile, Chris Paul had no problem getting by the pesky Ricky Rubio, picking up 14 points and eight assists, while nabbing a game-high five steals.
"Tonight was a great effort by everybody," James said. "All 12 guys."
And while the U.S. picked up 32 fast break points, Spain got nothing in transition ... literally. They had zero fast break points. But that's the way every facet of the game went on this night. The U.S. dominated from start to finish, leaving no doubt about whom the best team in the world is.
"We sent a big message," James said. "Every time we go on the court, we're trying to send a message to the whole field, no matter who we are playing."
But while this was a big win and an emphatic statement, it will be meaningless if the U.S. doesn't win gold on Aug. 24. These two teams could very well meet again on that day, and there's no doubt that Spain will play better.
But if you didn't know it before tonight, you know it now. The gold medal is the Americans' to lose.
John Schuhmann will be covering USA Basketball through the Beijing Olympics. Send him a question or comment.