Team USA Basketball 2012: Why Outside Shooting Will Lead Americans to Gold

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Team USA Basketball 2012: Why Outside Shooting Will Lead Americans to Gold
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Team USA has shot lights out from behind the arc in London, and Thursday’s game against Nigeria only solidified how outside shooting will lead to a gold medal.

Team USA took 25 three-point attempts in each of its first two Group A games against France and Tunisia. In the Nigeria matchup, Team USA took a staggering 46 attempts from long-range, sinking 29 of them en route to a record-setting 156-73 victory.

Every player on the Team USA roster has the capability of consistently draining long-range shots, with the exception of Tyson Chandler and Anthony Davis. The other 10 players sometimes live from three-point range.

Carmelo Anthony was one of those players on Thursday as he went off for 37 points after hitting 10 of 12 three-point attempts. Kevin Durant hit four, and Russell Westbrook, Andre Iguodala and Kevin Love each hit three. The only players who didn’t hit a three-pointer were the aforementioned Chandler and Davis and, surprisingly, LeBron James.

Should we expect Team USA to shoot 63 percent from long range every single game it plays? Well no, but it is definitely capable of getting close.

This group of NBA stars is one of the best ever assembled. They play a stellar offensive game, a near-perfect defense—when the game isn’t a blowout—and can clearly make teams look stupid for even thinking that they can run with Team USA.

The factor that will lead Team USA to another gold medal will be their outside shooting.

In Thursday’s Nigeria game, they weren’t forcing three-pointers, they were creating them. Someone would drive through the lane and find an open teammate ready to put three points on the board. More often than not, they sunk it.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The problem for opponents is that all of these players can drain a three under pressure. Not only with the game or shot clock winding down, but with a hand or two in their face as well. There is no way to stop the outside shooting for Team USA; you just have to hope they have an off game.

So why is Team USA so good from the outside in the Olympics and not necessarily in the NBA?

Well, that’s easy. It’s because the three-point line in international play is significantly shorter than in the NBA. The international three-point line is actually closer to the arc we see in college basketball than it is in NBA arenas.

Clearly that difference in length makes all the difference. In NBA games, Durant could hit a deep two-pointer, but in Olympic games, he could hit that same shot and it counts for three. Obviously they have the skill to hit a three from well beyond the line, but that foot or two makes all the difference in the world.

Team USA is at a huge advantage because they’re used to shooting from farther away to earn more than two points, and that’s a major reason why a gold medal will easily be won.

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