2010 FIBA World Championship: Team USA Vacations Against Tunisia
There's a game today? Eh. Yawn. Whatever. Get me a margarita with an umbrella in it. How about a lounge chair, too?
Indeed, the superior Americans took the court against Tunisia, just thrilled to qualify for its first ever FIBA tournament, with all the fervor of napping tourists.
Much like Wednesday's clumsy, 17-turnover effort, this stinker lacked the urgency of a meaningful contest.
The Americans rummaged through their luggage, twiddled their thumbs, fiddled with drink straws, and still cruised to a 92-57 victory after a non-competitive second half broke open the score.
Someone told the U.S. players one-win Iran and win-less Tunisia could not triumph if the refs spotted them an early 30-point lead. Give the Americans credit for playing like it and still romping.
Lazy passes? They might as well have been floating on a lazy river.
Team USA led by an identical margin, 19-13, after the first quarter and kicked off the listless outing with three consecutive giveaways.
The U.S. committed 12 turnovers in the first 20 minutes and clung to a 39-33 advantage. You want stats and a detailed, brilliant basketball breakdown? I'll provide one when the U.S. halts its possum play.
The Americans play too much one-on-one basketball. Derrick Rose loves to knife through traffic, even if three bodies stand between him and the hoop.
They jack up too many triples, inside scoring and ball movement be damned. Chauncey Billups entered the game 3-for-17 from beyond the arc. That did not prevent him from throwing up more defective bombs.
They run even when the opponent's five man unit has already set up its defense. Russel Westbrook, Rose, and the other speedy guards again eschewed half-court sets and precision execution in favor of a track-meet tempo.
Their limited size handicaps them against teams with interior giants, even mediocre ones. Kevin Love, Tyson Chandler, and Lamar Odom were abused in too many situations where a loose ball was up for grabs. Love turned it on enough to pad his prolific averages with four quick points and a five rebounds.
The Americans didn't in Thursday's game. They did enough to win. They unleashed a barrage of three-pointers, 7-11, late in the third quarter. Eric Gordon, who totaled 21 points, helmed the expected breakaway stampede.
The final score was never a question of "if" but "when." Tunisia won just by staying close through two and a half quarters, even though it finished shooting 27 percent from two-point land.
Something else, though, might have been at play. Did Mike Krzyzewski stash his half-court offense for the one-and-done games? Given the jockeying to avoid tournament favorites in other preliminary finales that would make sense.
Spain and Greece have surely held their best tricks for the next two weeks. Team USA might have done the same.
A half-assed column befits Thursday's half-hearted whack job.
The greenest youngsters will discover the grist of FIBA competition next week when one loss will afford the Americans a permanent vacation with all the margaritas they can stomach. Instead of an Istanbul travel guide, they'll get a plane ticket home.
Three days of practice could prove crucial in the squad's quest for tournament nirvana. A wide-open field gives this flawed unit a terrific chance to bring gold back to the United States for the first time since 1994.
Team USA will show up for Monday's elimination tilt against Angola.
Will a refined, tougher to guard offense accompany them?
Other games-scores to eyeball today:
The Argentina-Greece tilt carries numerous Group A implications but does not change the Americans' first elimination round opponent. Australia's rout of Angola decided that.
If New Zealand can beat France, Spain finishes second, instead of third in their group. That would allow Team USA to avoid Spain in its second game, maybe until the semifinals. The Spaniards found an extra gear in last year's Euroleague Championship. Does anyone want to play the tournament's surprising disappointment before the medal rounds?
The Ivory Coast's stunning victory against Puerto Rico opens the door for China's advancement. That team, sans Yao Ming, qualifying for an elimination game is a minor miracle.
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