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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Team USA: Basketball Gods Lacking Miracles

The United States of America national basketball team so far has been doing pretty well in the Olympics: they‘ve won three out of the three matches that they‘ve had so far, promptly demolishing China and Venezuela and managing a more difficult victory against Australia. Now they’ve got two more European opponents to play until the QF – but the dream team is a bit short in the dream department, or so it seems this far.

While victories against China and Venezuela came predictably easily, it was a whole different story when Australia’s team had to be faced. The third game was definitely a tough nut to crack for the Americans, and they couldn’t be sure of a consecutive win until the very last minute of the match.

Andrew Bogut’s quip on Australians being fully capable of beating USA caused quite a reaction amongst the fans. Many of them were very sceptical and it caused more than a few comments full of ridicule. However, there was a small percentage that took Bogut’s words to heart – probably because of the sheer intensity that the teams displayed during their duel.

Australia did manage to crush one of the group’s favourites France and Serbia – so it wasn’t like Bogut was talking purely out of nationalistic pride. What about the national USA team? At a first glance, their gameplay may seem pretty ideal and their track record – spotless, however, those who know well how this team plays, must have realised that it looks pretty different this time around.

Americans are known for putting up a show and having a very precise way of playing – and those are the main arguments for their ongoing basketball domination. We’re used to seeing them demolish their opponents in style – just take a look to the Dream Team of 2008 or 2012. Now we’re not seeing as much of aggressive defence leading to rapid attack.

Counterarguments may come with the fact that the team is without the greatest nation’s players – LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard or LaMarcus Aldridge. But we didn’t see the best of the best in 2014 World Cup, either.

Playing with a “second” team, Americans won every single game and the worst advantage was against Turkey - 77:98. Everyone watching could admire the silent determination of Mike Krzyzewski‘s squad – the defence was so intense that often the opponent‘s attack would be ended with a rebound, and counter-attack was finished with an immaculate speed and precision. That was, of course, solidified by the performance of Kenneth Faried, Anthony Davis, James Harden and Stephen Curry.

While neither China nor Venezuela could act as barometers of the potential that the Olympic favourites could go on to reveal, Australia was the team to put their current abilities to a good test. Going by the outcome of the matches that these teams had, it is pretty safe to assume that the strongest Olympic teams may very well come as tough challenges for the star-studded USA team. However, the UK-licensed bookie TonyBet is confident in their success – the odds for their gold are at 3/100.

So did team USA slacked off with their preparation? Well, knowing the usual reserve that they have and the lesson that they have learned in the past, we can expect Mike Kryzezwski’s army to shine when it will be needed the most and get back to their intense defence, nimble attack, unparalleled individual skill and impeccable teamwork. That would prove that team USA, just like the others, get better after active participation in the tournament.

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