2012 Summer Olympics: Will Team USA Grow Complacent?
When a roster of immortals follows up a 47-point blowout against Tunisia with an 83-point game that qualifies as something more than a "blowout," a measure of complacency seems par for the course.
Perhaps that's what happened when Team USA followed up those 130 points worth of victories with a five-point head-scratcher against Lithuania. Give the Lithuanians credit, they played hard, and they played like a team.
They also played against a version of the United States that appeared bored and apathetic.
In the six quarters of play that followed the total schooling of Nigeria, Team USA outscored its opponents by a combined six points. By this club's standards, that qualifies as a rut. The United States' defense was particularly woeful, giving up 59 points in the first half against Argentina.
You'd have thought defensively-inept assistant coach Mike D'Antoni had kidnapped Mike Krzyzewski and forbidden the team from trying to guard anyone with a modicum of effort.
It wasn't until the 42-17 third quarter against Argentina that the United States looked to regain its form.
The defensive intensity returned, and the squad's up-tempo style of play was alive and well again. So too was the USA's ball movement, which ensured a number of good looks for LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
The question remains: Which Team USA will we see in the elimination rounds?
Have these superstars gotten the listlessness out of their system? Or, was the humdrum performance against Lithuania a sign of things to come?
To be sure, it wouldn't be especially surprising to see the United States fall victim to another lull. Even before the close call against Lithuania, this club had developed a nasty habit of getting out to slow first-quarter starts.
These lapses in intensity are quintessential symptoms of complacency.
Chances are, however, those lapses won't endure long enough for this team to actually lose a game.
This roster may be chalked full of guys who are easily afflicted with attention deficit disorder in the face of underwhelming competition. But, those same guys have a long history of rising to the occasion when something is actually on the line.
After winning his first title, it's hard to argue that LeBron James is any longer something short of clutch. It was never easy to suggest such a thing about Kobe Bryant.
And, with Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony playing at such a high level, James and Bryant may not even matter.
The complacency we began to witness during the preliminary rounds was akin to the falling action that typifies the waning weeks of a regular season for so many dominant teams. As we all know, the playoffs are a different story.
Expect to see Team USA respond accordingly now that they must win or go home. The prospect of elimination and the utter shame that would come therewith will energize this club at just the right time.
With a gold medal on the line, there's no room for a second-best effort.
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