First of all, what a great opening game for both the US and China. China played off the home crowd support and hit their shots. I was very impressed with the guard play of the Chinese team.
They were not intimidated nor backed down from the NBA All-Star US guards. In the first half, they moved the ball around and more importantly, made their three pointers. In fact, 12 of their 23 total made field goals came off assists.
Defensively, they capitalized on the US team’s nerves and played very physical defense, which prevented the US from establishing any type of long rhythm. China’s frontcourt was solid as predicted. Yao clogged the middle and even made a 3-pointer at the beginning that caused the crowd to go wild.
However, his two biggest plays had to have been when he tried to take the charge and when he dove into the photographers trying to save the loose ball. I don’t think we will ever see that again from anyone over seven feet, much less 7’6”.
Yi was not as effective as I would have liked to see. Despite the loss, China has much to be proud of in that first half. Once this aggressiveness lasts the whole game, China will surely make it out of pool play.
Now for the favored US team. Jerry Colangelo must be smiling as the game went on. This was his strategy in action.
He knew there would be games that the Americans would not be able to make three pointers, even with specialist Michael Redd in the game. So a second strategy was needed, get to the rim.
In a flurry of highlight reel dunks, LeBron, Dwight, and Wade executed to perfection either off of fast breaks or dished drives. Lesson of the day: speed kills. Many of the dunks and fast break points and/or steals came from pushing the tempo of the game.
Secondly, the impact of Jason Kidd was felt. The Americans were going through a bit of a slump and had Paul at the point position. While Paul has excellent skills, Kidd is more respected on the international level and immediately showed his leadership upon entering the game.
The US team had an easier time starting its fast break, which consequently put points on the scoreboard. Defensively, the Chinese ball handlers had more trouble with the more physical, heavier Kidd.
The US team has a long path to the gold and has work to do before it takes its place on the podium. In addition to its poor 3-point shooting night, I would like to see Carmelo Anthony step his game up. For now, I’ll chalk it up to nerves and playing in a new arena.
But, Anthony needs more active games to be a leader on this team. The only three points he got were from the free throws. I say it again, getting to the rim.