3 Lessons Spain Taught Team USA About a Small Lineup
Even before a friendly matchup between Team USA and Spain was played, it was well documented that the American squad suffered from a vitamin A deficiency.
Against a Spanish team that prominently featured a trio of fellow NBA post players in Serge Ibaka, Pau and Marc Gasol, the Stars and Stripes countered with Tyson Chandler, doses of Kevin Love and a relief appearance by Anthony Davis.
While they managed to come from behind and claim a 100-78 victory against the world’s second-best team, the Spaniards sat Marc Gasol due to a left shoulder injury and backup point guard Sergio Rodriguez.
If Team USA hopes to schedule a consecutive meeting with Spain in the gold-medal game of 2012 Olympics, they’ll need to avoid these issues with their small lineup.
Extensive Jump Shooting
Since the U.S. squad is a team laden with ball-handlers, they are most dangerous when out in the open court.
With the likes of LeBron James, Chris Paul and Deron Williams leading the offensive attack, Team USA should be routinely treated to easy layups and open jump shots. However, this wasn’t the case against Spain’s shot-blocking bigs.
By having Pau Gasol and Serge Ibaka clog the middle, Spain’s seven-point first quarter lead proved that the team was successful at denying the post. This forced the Americans into a perimeter-based offense that saw little dribble penetration and porous ball movement.
If Team USA is going to rely on five first-half three-pointers from Carmelo Anthony every time they meet a team with legitimate NBA size, they’re in for a rocky medal defense.
Gambling on Defense
Although the U.S. featured the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in their starting lineup, Coach K paired Tyson Chandler with LeBron James in the frontcourt.
While James is one of the fiercest on-ball perimeter defenders in the NBA, his aggressive high-risk style isn’t tailor-made for the post.
Chandler, the only true center on the roster, was forced out of the game after picking up two early first-quarter fouls, leaving his misplaced teammates to defend the 6’10” Serge Ibaka and seven-foot Pau Gasol.
Since James and Carmelo Anthony were overmatched on defense, they would routinely gamble on entry passes into the post. This in turn allowed Ibaka three easy looks at the basket en route to a six-for-six start.
While not many teams have the frontline talent of Spain, there are more than a handful of teams with size.
If Team USA hopes to push the ball in transition on offense, the formula is simple: play aggressive, suffocating perimeter defense and be disciplined on the blocks.
We’ve already seen Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant struggle with foul trouble in the 2008 Olympic gold-medal game, so this lesson should carry more weight than the previous two.
If Tuesday’s exhibition game between the world’s top two teams is any indication of what’s yet to come, the U.S. (and rest of the world for that matter) should be expecting an inconsistent pattern of whistles being blown.
Foul trouble is a byproduct of an aggressive defense, but Team USA must remain cognizant of the fact that they’re only afforded five personal fouls per game. This means Kevin Love and Tyson Chandler need to avoid lazy reaching calls, while Kevin Durant and Chris Paul need to been smarter against the pick-and-roll.
While it’s been a shame to see injuries suffered by Wade, Derek Rose, Blake Griffin and Dwight Howard rob the Americans of their depth, it would be even more deflating to watch foul trouble eat away at the red, white and blue’s golden dreams.