Simply put, the most difficult tests for Team USA at the 2014 FIBA World Cup are waiting on the other side of group play. Nobody in Group C is going to challenge the Americans, including Wednesday’s opponent, the Dominican Republic.
The contest takes place at 3:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on ESPN 2 with a live stream available at WatchESPN.
Thus far, the United States destroyed Finland 114-55 in a game that should scare the rest of the field, beat Turkey 98-77 and handled New Zealand 98-77. The reason that victory over Finland should cause some concern among the rest of the field is the fact that when the Americans flip the switch with ball pressure and swarming defense, it is downright terrifying how talented they can be.
However, they looked like a completely different team against Turkey when they fell behind by six points in the middle of the third quarter before eventually pulling away. There was even some sleep walking in the second half against New Zealand, and the United States was actually outscored in the third quarter of that contest.
Of course, it’s a testament to how much talent the red, white and blue have that we are talking about sizable victories as if they are cause for concern.
As for the Dominican Republic, it lost to Ukraine 72-62, beat New Zealand 76-63 and then outlasted Finland 74-68. The discrepancy in performances against Finland tells you all you need to know in terms of the talent disparity between the United States and the Dominican Republic.
On the American side, the focus should be down low in this game. Sure, having Derrick Rose, Stephen Curry, James Harden and Kyrie Irving is a nice luxury, but Kenneth Faried and Anthony Davis have carried much of the scoring load.
Davis is the team’s leading scorer at 19 points a game, and Faried checks in at 14.3 a night. Faried is posting a team-high 8.3 rebounds a game as well and basically saved the squad from a more interesting fourth quarter against Turkey with 22 points and eight rebounds.
Look for head coach Mike Krzyzewski to stress the interior play because the Dominican Republic doesn’t have Al Horford for this tournament as he recovers from a torn pectoral muscle. What’s more, Kentucky-bound Karl Towns, who played with the team in the exhibition game against the Americans, is not in Spain because he is off to college.
There’s just not a lot of resistance left for Faried, Davis, Andre Drummond, DeMarcus Cousins and Mason Plumlee.
It wouldn’t be surprising if Coach K rotates all five of his big guys so everyone can get more experience under their belt while staying relatively fresh. After all, an eventual battle with Spain and Pau Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol is likely looming.
Dealing with the post presence of the Americans is a lot to ask of the Eulis Baez and Eloy Vargas combination for the Dominican Republic.
At least Francisco Garcia will be on the outside. He is leading the team with 21 points a night and has looked like a genuine superstar at times in the World Cup. He scored 29 points in a win over New Zealand and finished 11-of-15 from the field and 5-of-7 from beyond the arc.
However, Kevin Pelton of ESPN Insider noted that there could be some cause for concern, although Garcia did return to the game:
Dominican star Francisco Garcia rolled his ankle with 4:33 left and the DR leading Finland by five points.— Kevin Pelton (@kpelton) September 2, 2014
Garcia now returning to the game, which might decide the last spot in the quarterfinals from Group C. On ESPN3.— Kevin Pelton (@kpelton) September 2, 2014
As we mentioned, these two teams played in an exhibition game before heading to Spain, and the United States dominated to the tune of 105-62. Still, Dominican Republic coach Orlando Antigua was somewhat optimistic in the aftermath, via Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press:
“Would’ve liked to shoot the ball a lot better, but I thought we did a lot of good things throughout the game. We showed some good points.”
Even with that optimism, the talent disparity in this game is too great without Horford or Towns for any type of upset. That dominating performance in the exhibition game was a solid indicator of what fans should expect to see Wednesday as the Americans pound it down low throughout the contest.
This should be over by halftime.
Prediction: United States 99, Dominican Republic 77
Follow me on Twitter: