By: Jeffrey Newholm
Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi shared the lead with 12 points, Sue Bird added nine assists and the US cruised to another blowout victory Friday night, 81-51 over Canada. Undefeated Canada offered a sterner test than the winless Serbs, but the US built a 14 point advantage at the half and gradually built on it for the reminder of the game. Most encouraging was the team’s decreased reliance on Taurasi’s three point shooting. Even when Taurasi went to the bench with four fouls, her teammates continued to run fluid offensive sets. The Canadians proved to be a lesser downtown threat than the Serbs, shooting only 29% from three. Further aiding the US’s defensive efforts was more conscientious form as Canada took half as many foul shots as the Serbs were allowed Wednesday night.
After a rather underwhelming performance Wednesday, I was looking for the ladies to have a more complete performance in yesterday’s affair. Happily, this is exactly what transpired. After a 50-50 first quarter, the Americans never took their foot off the gas. With a much weaker China team the only team left in group play, team USA is playing with supreme confidence, and also quite supremely, as tournament play approaches early next week.
US-Serbia Men’s recap
While the women’s team had an easy time of it yesterday, the men suffered through another concerning close call, this time edging Serbia by a mere 94-91. US roared from the opening gate against the Serbs, seemingly doing no wrong in the opening minutes. But things quickly became serious after a few poor plays. Following several technical foul calls on the Americans, a sleeping giant was seemingly awakened. The Serbs suddenly started playing with energy and enthusiasm, and soon team US was faced with another tightly contested match.
Just like in Wednesday’s affair, the US could never awaken from their unexpected nightmare. Irving and Anthony again put in strong individual performances, but quite frankly the US didn’t look like a very imposing team after the first two minutes. USA’s 71 game international winning streak hinged on a wide open Serb three that would have forced overtime. Thankfully, the three missed. But to use an old expression: if you keep sticking your hand in the fire, you’re going to get burned. If team USA doesn’t actually wake up from the two “wake-up call” games they’ve played this week, its players may earn a medal of an undesirable color.
With both US teams having already clinched spots in the playoffs, their last group game on Sunday presents an opportunity for a final tune-up. For the women, it seems only a few minor adjustments are needed before the final run to gold starts. But I sincerely hope our men’s team takes its game against France very seriously. The France game offers one last friendly opportunity to find some team chemistry and have players find well-defined roles. Next week presents single-elimination pressure for a squad that doesn’t seem too sure of itself. US basketball fans have already had to ask for one “redeem team”. To ask for another would be to concede that the long-standing era of US monopoly on basketball power has officially sunset. And I, for one, would like to postpone that request for as long as possible.
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