Will Lithuania Escape Refocus Team USA or Just Expose Critical Weaknesses?
Optimists will tell you that Team USA was never in true danger of losing to the upstart Lithuanians. Realists will tell you that trailing 84-82 with 5:51 remaining and your defense virtually non-existent offers a startling sense of reality.
Team USA can be defeated, and it nearly happened. Again.
While dominant second halves have led to double-digit victories in every one of the Americans' previous Olympic games, the team has consistently been inconsistent. They were trailing Tunisia late in the first quarter.
Prior to the Olympic games, they defeated an inconsistent Argentina by just six points—a game that saw Argentina outscore the Americans 64-55 in the final three quarters of play.
The question is, how will Team USA react from their latest scare? Will we see another round of their dominance of Nigeria? Or will a greater level of competition derail their hopes of going undefeated?
After escaping Lithuania, expect the focus to return to its rightful place: improving upon flaws, building team chemistry and taking home the gold.
There is no denying how tough of a task Argentina will be. They are arguably the most well-oiled machine in these Olympic games. Their ball movement, teamwork and execution blows the Americans out of the water, and the presence of Manu Ginobili offers a legitimate reason to worry.
If not for their near-upset against Lithuania, Team USA would have entered their next game hoping that talent would lead them to victory. This is the same talent that failed to slow down the Lithuanian team that Argentina defeated 102-79.
Will Team USA lose a game during the 2012 Summer Olympics?
History does not bode well for the Americans. The future, however, will not be dictated by the past.
Argentina remains a threat to defeat Team USA when they play on Monday. The trio of Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola and Carlos Delfino didn't click all at the same time when the teams first met, and the Americans only won by six. The difference this time around is that the Americans have a trio of their own.
A trio that goes by the singular names of LeBron, Kobe and 'Melo. Oh, and some guy named Kevin Durant can be thrown into the pack.
We all know that Pablo Prigioni will keep it competitive with Chris Paul and Deron Williams. The difference for the Americans is that their supporting cast owns a significant advantage over that of the Argentinians.
And that is where talent meets chemistry.
The second unit for Team USA has actually been stronger and more consistent than the starting lineup. Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams have smothered opponents with their defensive energy, and Carmelo Anthony has been the best scorer in the world.
The fact Kevin Love has found his game, Andre Iguodala is a dominant defender and James Harden can score in bunches makes this unit that much more to handle.
Even more important than their individual abilities, they have learned to play together. You know, what the starting lineup has not.
Riding on the power of their bench, Team USA should be able to capitalize on what they learned against Lithuania. The team isn't as strong as they had assumed they would be by going small. They're also not certain to receive big scoring from their star players.
Most importantly, the second unit is all about defense—the most important piece of the puzzle.
While it's rather premature to predict the outcome of the Olympic Games, it's safe to say that the United States have learned from their mistakes. Coach Mike Krzyzewski is as great as any coach at observing and improving, and that's exactly what Team USA will do.
A gold medal run is in store for the 2012 Dream Team.
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