Team USA Basketball: Why the Men Aren't a Lock to Win Gold
While Team USA men's basketball has been busy comparing themselves to the original Dream Team, the rest of the world has been plotting to deny them an Olympic gold medal.
And though they remain unblemished so far (at 4-0 in pool play), their path to a gold medal is not as sure one might think.
If their recent performance against Lithuania didn't convince you of this reality, then perhaps the rest of this article will.
Speaking of that recent performance against Lithuania, any article discussing the gold medal possibilities of Team USA must start there.
Coming off an absolute thrashing of Nigeria, perhaps the red, white and blue was a bit over-confident heading into their matchup against a pesky Lithuanian squad.
Linas Kleiza dropped 25 points, and the USA found themselves trailing by two with under six minutes to play before LeBron James decided that he wasn't about to lose.
It's important to note that Lithuania is just 1-3 so far in the Olympics, with their only win coming against the aforementioned Nigeria squad.
The most notable of their defeats was a 23 point thrashing at the hands of Argentina—Team USA's next opponent.
2. Too Many Threes
Like a number of Mike Krzyzewski Duke teams of recent memory, Team USA has developed a habit of falling in love with the three ball.
Excluding the two blowout victories against Tunisia and Nigeria (where it didn't matter what type of shots the Americans were taking), Team USA is 18 for 55 beyond the arc. That's eight for 25 against France and 10 for 33 against Lithuania.
Thirty-two percent. Over 55 shots.
With a team as talented and deep as the US, it just doesn't make sense to constantly settle for three point jumpers—especially when they are being shot at this rate.
3. Not Enough Touches for Tyson Chandler and Anthony Davis
It's an inseparable pair.
Taking too many three pointers is nearly always followed by a lack of touches for the respective big men.
While some may argue that carrying just two true big men on the roster sets the US up for this type of play, I point to quality, not quantity.
Quality is that Anthony Davis is 10-for-11 from the field in the three games that he's been given playing time so far in the Olympics (he inexplicably did not see the court against Lithuania).
And quality is that starter Tyson Chandler is 7-for-10 from the field over the first four games (and he inexplicably did not record a shot attempt against Lithuania).
If the US wants to lock up a gold medal, their big men must begin to see more touches. Doing so will force opposing teams to focus more on interior defense, which will eventually open up the perimeter for the rest of the guards.
4. Free Throw Line Woes
It's no secret that free throws carry monumental importance throughout almost any game of basketball. Hitting free throws early can turn a nail-biter into a blowout, and hitting free throws late is what wins games.
Well, the US hasn't been hitting free throws at all as of late.
Over their first four games, Team USA has combined to go 70-for-101 from the line, which ends up being just a tick over 70 percent.
Against Lithuania, their 19-for-31 (61 percent) showing wouldn't have cut it for an average high school team.
5. Anything Can Happen
As reported by the AP's Tom Withers, Russia's Andrei Kirilenko put it best:
"One night you can have 156 points, and a different night the ball could start missing," he said.
It's true. At the Olympic stage, especially in a one-and-done bracket for the gold, anything can happen on any given night.
Even winless Tunisia was able to put a scare into France.
If the US can learn anything from those lessons, it's that nothing is ever as easy as it might seem—especially on the Olympic stage.