The last time the U.S. men's basketball team and Greece played in 2006, it was outscored, 31-21, in the second quarter. In this morning's 92-69 U.S. win, the Americans outscored Greece, 31-16.
After eight team fouls in the first quarter, Team USA (3-0) picked up momentum when Dwayne Wade stole the ball and sent an alley-oop to Kobe Bryant 32 seconds into the second quarter. Wade (17 points, five assists) sparked much of the offense in the second quarter, picking up eight points and three assists.
Greece (1-2) kept the deficit to single-digits until LeBron James converted an offensive rebound into a dunk with 3:42 left in the second. The leader of the Greek team, Theodoros Papaloukas responded quickly with an impressive pass inside to Konstantinos Tsartsaris to cut the U.S. lead back to eight.
Greece looked helpless in the final minutes of the second quarter as the U.S. went on a 13-2 run. Team USA followed up the basket by Tsartsaris with a 3-pointer from Bryant with 2:58 left in the half.
Bryant struggled in the previous games with 3-point shooting but appeared to get out of that funk with 2-for-5 shooting from beyond the arc. Chris Bosh and Jamescontinued the onslaught with inside scoring, allowing the U.S. to have a comfortable 51-32 lead at the half.
Greece was competitive in the second half but could not catch up to the Americans, allowing them to clinch a berth into the Round of Eight.
The U.S. also dominated the second quarter offensively against China with 29 points.
In both games, the U.S. started off slowly with four point leads at the end of the first quarter. Commentators note that Team USA has avoided the temptation to get off to a quick start and instead wait for the defense to work.
Greece succeeded in slowing the game down at the beginning but poor shooting eventually derailed any hope of a win against the Americans. Greece’s best scorer, Vasileios Spanoulis struggled missing all five 3-point attempts and finished with 4-for-13 shooting.
The Greeks did not have any luck at the point guard position with 12 combined turnovers between Papaloukas and Dimitris Diamantidis.
In 2006, Papaloukas was the catalyst to the Greek offense with 12 assists. Wade’s defense made sure that wouldn’t happen, recording six steals while holding Papaloukas at two assists.
Both assists came in the second quarter but had problems creating offense in the second half, causing Papaloukas to take matters into his hands. He led the team in scoring with 15 points, nine coming in the second half.
The back-up point guard was the only team member to play over 20 minutes and shoot at least 50 percent.
A major reason why the U.S. was successful in the second quarter was because of its post play. Bosh and Carmelo Anthony controlled the low post, despite giving up a significant size advantage to the Greek big men.
The Americans made Sofoklis Schortsanitis a non-factor by using their quickness to get around him. In the first quarter, Schortsanitis disrupted Team USA’s offense with his physical style, knocking around the big men while the U.S. guards had foul trouble.
Team USA made the necessary adjustments and came right back at Schortsanitis, forcing him to sit with three fouls in the first half. Greece threw nearly every big man they could at the U.S. but were not effective against Bosh.
Bosh had timely scoring with seven of his 18 points in the second quarter while contributing five rebounds and two blocks. Anthony also had a major presence with six rebounds, which turned into quick baskets for Team USA.
The U.S. will rely on its big men again Saturday against undefeated Spain. Marc and Pau Gasol have dominated the inside against their opponents so far. If the U.S. expects to beat Spain, it will need to have another big second quarter to keep the Spaniards from gaining confidence early.