USA vs. Brazil Olympics Basketball: What Went Wrong

Charles BennettSenior Analyst IJuly 17, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 16: LeBron James #6 of the US Men's Senior National Team lays up a shot against Brazil in the third quarter during a pre-Olympic exhibition basketball game at the Verizon Center on July 16, 2012 in Washington, DC. The US Senior Men's National Team won, 80-69. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Obviously, not everything went wrong in USA's tuneup, as they beat a top-10 team with top-three big men by double digits.  But here are a few things that the U.S. can do better.

Bad Shot Selection:  Team USA won by 11.  They would have won by 21 if they hadn't blown a number of chip-shot dunks and layups. And they would've won by even more if Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony (combined 4-for-18 in the game) and others hadn't been jacking up ill-conceived jump shots.  

Team USA shot 39 percent from the field in the first half.  They shot 27 percent from downtown in the entire game.  They'll need to shoot a little better in the Olympics, and find better looks.

Underpassing: Brazil outdished Team USA 21-11, with Marcelo Huertas alone connecting more than the entire American side.  Team USA has three of the four best point guards in the tournament in Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook; and only had one assist in the first half.

I know in the NBA, teams are often criticized for overpassing on the perimeter.  I think the opposite could be said of Team USA in this game: they didn't make effective use of their point guards as play creators.

Not Enough Love:  Kevin Love is the second best player on Team USA's bench after Kevin Durant. He's also one of the top five players in the world, and the best NBA rebounder in the tournament.  Yet he only played five minutes for Team USA.  That's still twice as many as Team USA's number three big, Anthony Davis, played.

When Love and Tyson Chandler were out, Team USA was running a small lineup that didn't have anybody over 6'9" (Westbrook at the two and James Harden at the three).  There were mismatches all around, most of which were capitalized on better by Brazil than us.   Seems obvious to me, you have to fight bigs with bigs; fighting bigs with smalls did not work in the last game.

Meanwhile, with Love on the bench for most of the game, Team USA was outrebounded 38-30.  Brazil's three primary bigs (Nene, Tiago Splitter and Anderson Varejao) outrebounded Love, Chandler and Davis 25-3. 

Playing Love (who had 13.7 rebounds per 40 minutes last season) for 15-20 minutes would have evened out.  He also could have broken Brazil's defense with his strong game from anywhere on the floor. Furthermore, more Love in place of Westbrook, Williams or Harden would mean fewer mismatches.

And I'm sorry, but the "Well-Lebron-Can-Do-Anything" argument doesn't cut it here.  LeBron isn't as good a rebounder as Love or even Davis.  And Team USA is far too talented to rely on the deus ex machina of LeBron or Durant bailing them out every game.

We have double-double threats.  Might as well use them

Oh, and one final thing went wrong:

Playing ball in front of President Obama: I think the U.S.' lack of good play may have been due, at least in part, to the Leader of the Free World.  I suspect that, come London, the U.S. will feel less rattled when the First Critic is not in attendance.  

Then again, if the Brits want the U.S. to fail, perhaps they should consider having Queen Elizabeth make a cameo in the gold-medal match.