Team USA Basketball 2012: Analyzing What American Men Must Work on vs. Nigeria
The United States men's basketball team has had little trouble defeating France and Tunisia in its first two Olympic contests, and its game on Thursday against Nigeria shouldn't be much of an issue either.
There are bigger challenges ahead, however, so it will be important for the Americans to smooth things out when it takes on the Nigerians.
Team USA beat Argentina by just six points in an exhibition game leading up to the Olympics, and the Argentinians will be its final opponent in pool play.
In order to get ready for them and perhaps Spain in the gold-medal game, the United States must fine tune the little details that make it so dangerous.
Here are the three main things that Team USA must focus on against Nigeria in order to ensure success later on in the tournament.
What will be most critical for Team USA moving forward?
The Americans are shooting a solid 36 percent from long range through their first two contests, but hitting from beyond the arc will have to be a staple in the Team USA offense if it is going to take down its top competition.
Kevin Love, Carmelo Anthony, James Harden and others were pouring in threes against Tunisia, but that should be taken with a grain of salt due to the lack of pressure over the course of the game.
When things are tighter against Argentina, Brazil or Spain, that is when the three-pointers will truly count.
Team USA won't face much pressure against Nigeria, but it should use the game as an opportunity to get guys like Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant going from long range.
Neither Kobe nor Durant were heavily involved against Tunisia as Mike Krzyzewski worked many of his bench players into the rotation, but they are the two guys on the team who can get hot and absolutely fill it up from downtown.
Coach K would be well served to play them both plenty of minutes against Nigeria and hope that they can get into a groove
Despite the lack of dominant bigs on the roster, Team USA has managed to out-rebound each of its first two opponents.
While that is certainly a good sign since Tyson Chandler is the only true center on the team, it isn't a true representation of what might happen later in the tournament.
Tunisia obviously doesn't have any NBA-quality players on its roster, let alone on the interior. As for France, it could have been an issue if Joakim Noah was playing, but he is injured.
Because of that, the Americans only had to deal with fringe bigs like Ronny Turiaf and Boris Diaw.
Things will only get tougher in that regard moving forward, particularly in the knockout stage against potential opponents such as Brazil and Spain.
The Brazilians send out three excellent big men in the form of Nene, Anderson Varejao and Tiago Splitter, as do the Spaniards with the Gasol brothers and Serge Ibaka.
Team rebounding must be the Americans' hallmark as the tournament progresses, and it should be a priority against Nigeria.
Staying Out of Foul Trouble
Truth be told, it's tough to complain too much about Team USA's performance thus far after two convincing wins, but the most glaring issue thus far has been a penchant for getting into foul trouble.
It didn't hurt the team against France or Tunisia, and it won't be a big problem against Nigeria either, but the United States will want to have its full allotment of players when the stakes get higher and the level of competition gets more intense.
Team USA has a lot of depth.
But if bigs like Chandler and Love have to sit because of fouls, then a youngster like Anthony Davis will have to play more minutes than Coach K wants, or the United States will have to go with a small lineup.
There are advantages to going small since they can overwhelm teams with speed and athleticism, but it can be a detriment as well.
I'm not trying to say that Team USA should be less aggressive on defense because that is part of what makes the squad so good, but perhaps the players can be a littler smarter about when to take chances in the Nigeria game.
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