USA vs Brazil: The First Challenge

Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant

For three quarters, it looked like Brazil had figured out how to beat Team USA.

They successfully forced the USA into a slower offensive pace while managing to beat them in the paint going the other way. USA was playing from behind for the first time in tournament play, and lost the battle in offensive rebounds and assists.

But this squad, widely criticized for it’s youth and lack of experience, figured out how to get the win.

Some random observations:

Observation Number 1 – Durant is the Man
Midway through the second quarter, Team USA wound up in a situation they hadn’t dealt with yet. Their fast paced offensive, largely consisting of 1-2 passes before a shot attempt, wasn’t working. Durant was the one to step it up, scoring 11 of the team’s 21 points in the quarter, and keeping them from falling into a hole. He finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and 3 steals while going 9-18 from the field (including 4-6 from the three point line) and 5-6 from the free throw line while playing 39 minutes (FIBA games last 40).

Let me take this opportunity to echo the prevailing sentiment echoing through all of us on the Durrant bandwagon – He is very good, and it looks like he’s still getting better.

Observation Number 2 – Remember the name Tiago Splitter
If you’re a fan of any team in the Western Conference, you need to know about this guy.

Tiago Splitter, the reigning Spanish League MVP and Finals MVP, will be playing for the Spurs next season, and… he’s very good. More often than not, he was stepping up to Odom like he didn’t know (or care) who he was or whom he played for. He may have only put up 13 points and 10 rebounds, but he was also the reason that Odom scored 8, Love scored 3 and Chandler scored 0.

Assuming he and Tim Duncan develop any sort of chemistry, I mean…

Let’s put it this way: Coach Pop won’t be afraid to re-caliber his offense to support another Twin Towers dynamic.

Observation Number 3 – Every other FIBA team will study this game
Brazil may have lost, but they exposed Team USA’s stress points in ways that no team had been able to. Brazil was able to break down USA’s perimeter defensive by moving the ball around the three point line until they could find Splitter in the interior in single coverage.

Not only that, but by then stepping up on their perimeter defense, they were able to slow down USA’s 7-second offense. Suddenly guys like Igodala, Gay and Gordon weren’t sure how to get open (they finished with 3, 1 and 0 points respectfully). USA was forced to start making bad decisions or going for bad shots. USA only attempted 55 shots all game (down from 71 and 74 in the previous two games).

Meanwhile, Brazil looked to stick to their game plan, especially in the first half, wherein they were averaging 67% from the field with 5 minutes to go in the 2nd quarter.

And not for nothing, but even though this was meant to be a ‘neutral’ court, Team USA was clearly the away team – and probably will be for the rest of this tournament.

To their credit, USA managed to break things up with halftime adjustments, and even forced Brazil into a terrible cold streak in the 4th (4-20). That cold streak, really, was the key that kept this a ball game down the stretch. It was a two point game with 1:04 left.

USA and Brazil exchanged baskets, giving US the slim advantage in the final seconds. With five seconds remaining, Rose fouled Marcelo Tieppo Huertas– a career 85% FG shooter.

He took the line with a chance to tie, but missed his first free throw. This forced him to attempt an intentional miss on the second shot, which wound up bouncing its way back to Leandro Barbosa 3 feet from the hoop with his own chance to tie things up with Team USA.

He tossed it up. It hit the back iron, then the front iron. Then it bounced out.

Whew.

USA has the day off tomorrow, and will then face Iran on Wednesday and Tunisia on Thursday.

The knockout round starts next week, and unless there’s some crazy potential scenario out there I don’t understand, Team USA will be a part of it.

USA vs. Brazil – Aug. 30th 2010
Country Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Final
BRA 28 18 13 9 68
USA 22 21 18 9 70

ESPN Box Score

FIBA Standings

FIBA Full Schedule

Game Photos
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~ by djepperson on August 30, 2010.

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