USA beat 43rd ranked Great Britain by 40 points in Manchester. The game can only be classified as a one-sided contest, but nobody expected this to be close. USA played well, and they appear poised for a gold medal, but should winning be the only metric to measure this team?
For better or worse, Kobe Bryant’s statement that the 2012 Olympic Basketball team is better than the Dream Team sets the bar pretty high. Now they need to be measured beyond whether they win or lose.
Being in conversation with the likes of the Dream Team necessitates domination across the board by the 2012 squad. We seemingly got that against Great Britain, but domination wasn’t the case against Brazil.
It should be a safe assumption to say USA Basketball will not lose a game in London. An undefeated performance should bare the markings of a great team, but the reason Team USA won’t lose isn’t because they’re the greatest team of all time. They’re not. Team USA Basketball is The Dark Knight, not The Godfather. They’re Kobe Bryant, not Michael Jordan.
The US National Men’s team is that moment you’re researching an article and want to look up the last time a Mike Krzyzewski-led Team USA lost a game. You enter Mike into a Google search, M - i- k- e, then you pause, it’s okay you say to yourself, just sound it out, but it’s impossible. You remember his nickname, Coach K, and type "K."
Thank you Google search algorithms, the first suggestion that appears when “Mike K” is in a Google search bar is Mike Krzyzewski.
So things are good, just like Team USA, but they’re not great. Great teams don’t let Great Britain score 78 points. Great Britain isn’t great, let alone good. Great defense would have held them to 40.
We saw a team dressed like the Harlem Globetrotters, doing everything in their power to play like them. USA took full advantage of FIBA’s more physical game, routinely making contact with ball handlers and using their superior speed and reach to generate steals. They had 16 steals, and didn’t even play the Washington Generals.
The game featured a frantic pace. Team USA scored 118 points in only 40 minutes largely enabled by Great Britain’s 27 turnovers. There’s no question coming into this tournament that Team USA can score in transition, and they can score fast. They may need to do this to make up for a lack of depth down low.
Coach K might have been trying to simulate a game in which USA’s bigs are in foul trouble, or worse, fouled out. Kevin Love played 15 minutes, Anthony Davis 13, and Tyson Chandler only 10. As a result of the need for help defense in the paint, USA’s back court defense was best summed up as chickens running around with their heads cut off.
That’s why Great Britain scored 78 points—they shot 12-23 from the three-point line. This is both a better percent and higher number of treys than Team USA scored. This isn’t nitpicking. In the big picture a win is a win and a gold medal is a gold medal, but the Olympics only come around every four years, and when you put together eleven maestros of the game, and Anthony Davis, you want art. You want total basketball.
A drive and dunk past four defenders may inspire awe, but so does five or six consecutive defensive stands that result in zero points, or as the British are phrasing it, total points (tp). For every two or three times a pass is flung through traffic for an alley oop, one lands in the stands. This is a blemish; it’s less than perfection.
Team USA can’t be fearful of making mistakes, but no one doubts their confidence. The game will not be less exciting if they minimize the NBA Jam, and pass more to set up dribble penetration before kicking it out for a 15-foot jump shot. Just because a team only needs three seconds to score, is not a valid excuse to only take three seconds off the shot clock.
If USA works the shot clock, their opponents will finish with embarrassing final scores. The goal this Olympics shouldn’t be to cause shame to USA’s opponents, but remind them they never even had a chance.
Luol Deng played well. He even had Great Britain’s lone steal, but Lebron James, Deron Williams and Carmelo Anthony played better. They combined for 57 points, and may be capable of beating Great Britain three vs. five.
If we give our opponents a three-ring circus performance, we’re forgetting what the Olympics are all about—being the best of the absolute best. That means winning 100-40. No one doubts Team USA’s skill. We see it 82-plus games a year in the NBA.
In order for this team to be remembered beyond a list that denotes a gold medal won, we need more masterful performances. We want to be able to look back on them and reiterate the wise words of Tony the Tiger.
By the way, if you were wondering the last time a Team USA team coached by Coach K lost, it was against Greece in 2006.