The United States men’s basketball team is trying to avenge a loss in the 2006 world championship semifinals to Greece…here’s my instant impressions of this preliminary Olympic game. All times Beijing…AND Eastern… (gotta love the time difference being exactly 12 hours!)
8:01 Greece gets the tip…first shot misses, and here we come the other way.
8:02 Kobe gets the ball...Kobe scores. Great sign for Team USA to see its best player get off early on the offensive end.
8:02 First ticky-tack foul of the game – this has been a theme in Beijing, and the Americans need to adjust.
8:03 2-2 after a Greece jumper…and Kobe goes one-on-one to get to the foul line. He seems to be more aggressive early, and I think you’ll see the Redeem Team rely on him more in the half-court offense against tougher opponents (where their fast-break offense doesn’t come so easily).
8:04 Second ticky-tack foul of the game…and it’s Jason Kidd again.
8:04 Third ticky-tack foul of the game. Guess who? We won’t be seeing Jason Kidd for a while. The inconsistency (and often, incompetency) of Olympic officials could hurt any team, but it poses a big danger for Team USA, especially in the frontcourt (where Howard, Bosh, and Boozer are pretty much all they’ve got).
8:05 Kobe goes for a layup…and gets fouled…but there’s no call.
8:06 There’s a foul – against the USA. And it’s intentional to boot. Team fouls 5-0…did I say anything about inconsistency yet?
8:07 Still 4-4 early…we’ll get an idea what kind of composure the Americans have during adversity. LeBron goes one-on-one but can’t score, and here comes Greece.
8:07 6-4 Greece.
8:08 The Americans are falling into exactly what Greece wants. No layups…no dunks…just LeBron isolation. Kobe isolation. LeBron isolation. You get the idea.
8:08 Anthony knocks down a three and the Americans are back on top. Every outside shot that Team USA knocks down is a big sigh of relief…their perecentage in the first two games has been ugly.
8:09 We have our first t Coach K tirade. Sounds like he wanted a three-second call, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he referenced the team foul discrepancy, just a "little bit".
8:10 The pace is plodding, and somewhere, Greece’s coach has to be smiling. Of all the international teams the USA squad will face, this one is most typical. No NBA players you’ve ever heard of…just a bunch of guys that are used to playing together and do it quite well, thank you very much.
8:11 USA layup (finally) and the Greece lead is cut to two. Lots of fouls, lots of whistles, and lots of substitutions early on. See: “ PACE, PLODDING” in your local dictionary.
8:12 One of the Americans’ problems in the first few games of this tournament has been a willingness to double-team and leave a player open during a slow rotation. Greece’s passing has been superb in the early going, and as the USA doubled a pick-and-roll, the opponents turned it into a simple three-point play in the paint. Memo to Redeem Team: good defense doesn’t leave players on the other team open. Period.
8:13 Great pass, Kobe to LeBron…and we have a dunk. I was starting to worry they’d forgotten how to do that.
8:14 Team USA takes two points from Greeceby knocking a shot off the rim. One of the hallmarks of the Colangelo regime has been a better understanding and adaptability to the FIBA international rules, and this is a great example.
8:15 Transition points – and Kobe finishes with two hands. Breakaways are the exception against disciplined European teams, but the USA defense has stiffened up in the last couple minutes.
8:16 Chris Bosh takes a charge…great defense there…and he’s rewarded at the other end with a beautiful dish from Dwyane Wade for a three-point play chance.
8:17 USA 18, Greece 14, 1:40 to go in the first.
8:18 And we have a shot-clock violation to give the ball back to the red, white, and blue. The defensive intensity has gone through the roof for the Americans in the last couple minutes.
8:19 Wade scores on a rebound and putback. Instant impact off the bench for the Redeem Team’s star sixth man.
8:20 Final shot time…but the Americans come up short at the buzzer. After one quarter in Beijing, it’s USA 20, Greece 16.
8:21 Quick look at stats: the USA is shooting a healthy 57% from the floor, but Greece has gotten to the line seven times already. Look for the Americans to make a concerted effort to force turnovers here as we start the second.
8:22 And we’re underway in quarter #2. Greece’s half-court offense has looked a little ragged the last couple trips, and there’s a turnover.
8:23 Alley-oop to Kobe. Play of the day so far. Wade was trying to save a ball from out-of-bounds and tossed it straight at the rim for posterization.
8:24 Two trips…two dunks. This is American basketball the way it’s meant to be played…and Dwight Howard will be looking for a three-point play.
8:24 Of course, Dwight Howard doesn’t make free throws that often. 24-18,USA.
8:24 Dunk #3...that one was LeBron in transition. And here comes the USA again…but Wade’s three won’t drop.
8:24 The difference right now is the USA defensive pressure…when they get their hands in passing lanes, they run out better than anybody in the world.
8:25 Yet another dunk chance, but Kobe misses this one. The lead stays at six.
8:25 Dwyane Wade gets a well-deserved rest…time to find out if the USA can keep up the tempo without him.
8:26 Three-point play for Greece on a questionable call. It feels like five-on-eight to me…anyone else?
8:26 Great drive and dish by Deron Williams, but Kobe missed the open three. USA tracks down the rebound and Bosh will get some free throws.
8:27 The Americans extend their pressure now…whenever they get to the foul line, they pick up the ball-handler that much earlier.
8:29 Chris Bosh misses an ill-advised 15-foot jumper. The Raptors may need him to force that shot occasionally, but the United States national team definitely doesn’t.
8:30 A lull in the action, finally. LeBron’s at the line…he missed the second, but Kobe tracked down the rebound, attacked the rim, flipped it over his head to Wade, and the Americans have a chance for a three-point play. Great pass by Bryant.
8:31 USA by nine…this is an important part of the game as they try to tighten down and get the lead into double figures.
8:31 Greece scores, but Wade comes right back with a layup to extend the lead back to nine.
8:32 Another Greece lay-up…and Wade answers with a three. He’s on fire, and it’s a good thing. He has the kind of confidence in his outside shot and finishing ability that everybody on this team (Bryant, James, Redd, Paul, etc.) shows during the NBA season, but no one else looks as comfortable in their “score-at-will” mentality during the Olympics.
8:33 Greece is getting the loose balls right now…and the Americans have missed a few layups in a row. My dad’s words of wisdom ring in my ears…”NEVER MISS YOUR LAYUPS!”
8:34 Anthony attacks the rim…ball comes off backboard…LeBron dunks on Greece. Nice sequence for the SportsCenter guys later.
8:35 Time-out on the floor.
8:36 And we’re underway- Redeem Team by ten. Nice up-and-under by Greece to get the lead back in single digits.
8:37 LeBron catches the ball in the paint and kicks out to Kobe for an NBA three. Nothing but net. Maybe if Kobe starts shooting those 23-footers instead of the shorter international triples, he’ll make a few.
8:37 Three-point play opportunity for Chris Bosh. The USAhas been blessed with big men that run the floor, and the team’s star playmakers always reward them at the end.
8:38 Steal-LeBron. Sprint-LeBron. Reverse dunk-LeBron. Timeout-Greece.
8:39 That was a great trap to force the Greek turnover, and it led to easy points for the USA. The Americans now have seven steals in the first half.
8:40 Under two minutes to go…and we’re back to calling ticky-tack fouls. I had missed that lately (and I’m sure the Greece free throw shooters had too!)
8:40 Bosh with a great finish again…hanging in the air…drawing the foul, and rattling in the basket. One of the guys watching the game with me just dubbed him “The King of And-One”, so we’ll use that title for the rest of today’s game.
8:42 One minute to play, USA 49-32.
8:42 Americans should be looking two-for-one with 40 seconds to go.
8:42 And instead, the officials call an offensive foul. Well, why ruin a sparkling first half for the men in stripes by starting to make good calls now?
8:43 LeBron plays “Globetrotter” as he falls to the ground, keeps the dribble, regains his balance, and scores to stretch the USA lead to 19.
8:44 Chris Bosh finishes the first half with an emphatic block, and the Americans will take a 51-32 margin to the locker room. The USA has only allowed sixteen points in each of the first two quarters, and their defense has been the difference.
8:45 At the break, "Mister And-One" Bosh is the Redeem Team’s leading scorer with 12 points. Kobe, LeBron, and Wade are all in double figures as well. If there’s any sign of danger for the USA in the second half, it’s that Greece is shooting a sub-par 0-7 from distance. I would be shocked if they don’t start knocking down at least some outside shots in the second half.
USA 51…GREECE 32. Thanks for reading…check out the second-half article next!