Next game up is against Greece. I believe this will be the most interesting game of the preliminary rounds for a number of reasons.
1) First Test- Greece is the first quality, medal-contending team we will face in the Olympics.
2) Redemption- There is certainly a redemption factor after Greece bounced the Americans from the world championships a few years back.
3) Dirty Players- As you can read here, Greece is a very dirty team. They will try all sorts of tricks to get under the skin of the Americans. Keep a close eye on the actions of Dwight Howard and Lebron James when play gets rough.
4) USA's Defense- Everybody, and I mean every country's scouting team as well as every American fan, will be watching this game to see how USA handles the pick and roll. How will they rotate? Will they gamble on the passing lanes for kick passes after penetration? Will they pack the lane? How easily does the ball-handler get to the rim? How easy do the Greeks get open threes.
5) Zone Buster- It will be very interesting to see how USA attacks the very organized Greek Zone. Here is where Jim Boeheim earns his spot on the bench.
This should be a very very tough and physical game for the Americans and one in which K will probably have to actually do some serious coaching during the game.
Sidenote- I thought this was an interesting excerpt from the Sheridan article:
Please add your thoughts here-The Americans who were on the 2006 team that lost to Greece in the semifinals of the World Championship will be extra motivated, although they haven't been motivated enough to come to the arena early and scout their opponent with their own eyes -- with the exception of Kobe, who sat next to Coach K in the stands for the Greece-Spain game Sunday.
I'll venture forth with a prediction...USA by 25.
It will definitely be our toughest test, yet, but our roster is significantly better now than it was in 2006. No offense to Heinrich, but Williams is simply a better pg. Paul is two years older and is much improved and far more experienced (not that he was bad in the NBA in 2006, but he certainly seems to know how to get it done on the international level now). I'm a Hawks fan and love Joe Johnson, but Kobe is definitely an upgrade at SG, as well, especially on the defensive end. Add the fact that LBJ, Melo, and Wade are also older and more experienced and that the Greek team isn't as strong and it means it definitely should be a win by the USA. It will be a tough game and the team needs to tighten up the defense a little and shoot better from distance, but if we struggle and lose, it would be very concerning. I'm sure that K will have the guys more focused than ever. I expect to see a determined Team USA slowly but surely pull away from Greece as the game goes on and take the first big step towards redemption.
This game will tell the story. It is the first real test indeed, and a convincing win would send a loud and clear message that this team has no intention whatsoever of losing a game. I am excited and I fully believe this team answers the call and put's USA Basketball back on top. They will need to be on their game for sure, but they are being led by the greatest coach on the planet so "focus" should not be an issue.
Greece plays a physical style of defense and will not let the US get a lot of penetration to the basket or easy break-away dunks. Greece will also take care of the ball acceptionally well so don't expect many turnovers for the Greek team.
I think the US needs to shoot at least 40% from 3-point range or I think that Greece will pull off the upset and beat the US. Kobe and Carmelo cannot have the games they have been having lately if they want to be in that gold medal game on August 24th.
So watch out for the Greek team to pull an upset tommorow.
My prediction is the USA by 6, but I believe it should be one of the most physical and emotional games of these Olympics
I'm saying Greece by 3 (and hoping I'm wrong).
I predict that Greece will actually be ahead into the 2nd quarter, and maybe even the third, but the US will pull away enough at the end of the third and will bring home the win. Look for Deron Williams to have a very big game. If not, then look for Kobe to step up.
What's game time (EST)?
There is an interesting difference of opinion as to how this game will go, and I certainly respect the views of those that look for a very close game or even for a win by Greece.
I like the USA by a big margin here (I predicted 25 pts above) for the following reasons:
1. The US will field some of the best basketball players in the world. I've watched several games, and seen no one to compare to LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Paul, for example. Dirk Nowitzki of Germany is on that level, but the Greek players?
2. The USA should play with purpose and intensity.
3. The USA team has enough time together and enough feel for the international game to overcome most of the "familiarity gap" represented by differences in the NBA and FIBA games.
4. The US will try to push tempo and score off its defense and will have some success doing so.
This is not the Gold Medal game, and a single loss format in medal play is risky, but we should have a better idea by tomorrow about how the US compares to the best international teams.
USA by 15 with leads of more than 15 though out the game -- i.e. it ain't gonna be close once they get into the second half. USA is a better team than last time and Greece isn't going to play as well as they did in the upset.
Again, I hope I'm wrong, but I have a very bad feeling about this game.
Chris Sheridan has just put up an article on ESPN.com about the game against Greece. He highlighted some interesting things to keep an eye on. (The article basically repeats everything I said at the top of the thread and more... I don't wanna toot my own horn here but... TOOT TOOT Baby).
It's a very good read and even has a Greece Roster breakdown.
I think the US team will come up MUCH more fired up for Greece than Angola, and if they don't look for Coach K to bench the starting five quick. They may be NBA professionals and grown men. And as the announcers have said in these games it's hard to jump on teams early and deliver the knockout blow in the first quarter. But all out hussle and most of all defensive pressure and help will be needed in this game.
For those who haven't watched the China and Angola games, you've no doubt read how poorly the US team is shooting 3's. Okay, I'm a Duke fan, I'm biased, and perhaps he might not be olympic material when it comes to playing defense. But am I crazy in thinking JJ Reddick would fill a huge hole on this team? If the US doesn't start making 3's it's just going to make the defense for opposing teams pack it in even more. I realize Kobe, James et al are not "spot up shooters" as the announcers have been telling us. But at some point when you're wide open (these shots have NOT been highly contested) you gotta start knocking down some outside shots!
I hope team U.S.A. wins big and I really think they should win by big unless they basically panic. THe reality of the situation is the U.S. is significantly more talented than any other team in this league. The second worst player on U.S. (Boozer in terms of playing time at least) would probably be the best player on any team other than Spain (Yao is not himself right now as he is still suffering from the injury and I would probably take Boozer over Pau but I am biased)
I know its a different game and I know the U.S. has not played together as much as some of these other teams. But I really believe the difference in talent is rather substantial.
The U.S. is certainly susceptible to a loss but it would still be highly disappointing and a borderline choke if they do. To use a college basketball analogy, in 1992 the U.S. was a 1 seed going up against teams that didn't even make the tournament. Now I'd say the U.S. is a 1 seed going up against 10-12 seeds and maybe an 8 seed. They could lose but they should win and if they do fall, it's a major upset. And unlike in 2004, this team respects its opponents and has actually played a decent amount of games together. In addition, the team chemistry including respect for the coach seems to be much higher.