Takeaways from Team USA’s 97-78 Victory over Australiaby Garrett Brooks August 5, 2021 0 comments
The USA men’s Olympic basketball team is going to play for the gold medal on Saturday. While expectations were always that they should reach this point, the journey has been far from smooth.
As the NBA kicked off free agency, some of the best basketball players in the world have been competing for their respective countries. Team USA entered the 2020 Olympics as heavy favorites to take the gold. They entered these Olympics coming off three straight men’s basketball gold medal results. They’ve been on a tear and are now one win away from four in a row.
It won’t be easy, although nothing has been for this group. Before focusing on the gold medal game it’s vital to highlight the key takeaways from Team USA’s semifinal victory over Australia.
Takeaways from Team USA’s semifinal victory: Slow Starts to be Expected from this Group
Yet again this group failed to bring the necessary energy and effort from the opening tip. For the third straight game, Team USA failed to reach 20 points scored in the opening quarter. In fact, only against Iran did this group go over 20 points in the opening quarter. Of those other four games, they’ve only held a lead in one of the four slow starts at the Olympics.
At this point, it should be expected that there going to come out of the gates slow. They tend to take time getting into a rhythm and it seems as if the rim tightens up on them early. Luckily, they’re talented enough and versatile enough to cover themselves. They can increase the defensive tenacity early in the gold medal game and force their opponent to start slow offensively as well.
At some point, one of Team USA’s many gifted scorers will open the lid for the whole team. That’s what happened against Australia. Kevin Durant got the team points on countless first-half possessions. He did this despite his outside shot not falling, using his advantages in the mid-range and attacking the basket.
It was only a matter of time before his team joined him in scoring the ball effectively.
Takeaways from Team USA’s semifinal victory: ‘Big 3’ Dominated the Third Quarter to Pull Away
Like any year, you can classify Team USA’s ‘Big 3’ in a variety of different ways. It starts with Durant, obviously, but after him, the supporting cast can play a number of different roles.
For example, Damian Lillard is well known as one of the best scoring guards of this generation. He’s a dominant player night in and night out. Still, it wasn’t him playing the key support role next to Durant against Australia.
It was two players fresh off facing each other in the NBA Finals. Devin Booker and Jrue Holiday elevated their game to help Team USA make their comeback and kicked it up a gear to put the game out of reach before the fourth quarter even started.
The 32-10 dominant third-quarter performance was motored by those three. Durant, Booker and Holiday scored 25 of Team USA’s 32 points in the third. Booker alone outscored Australia, 11-10 in the quarter. It was this decisive stretch, from very late in the second quarter to the first half point of the third quarter, that Team USA inserted their will.
They turned a three-point halftime deficit into a 19 point lead entering the fourth quarter. It was all possible because Durant, Booker and Holiday dominated.
Takeaways from Team USA’s semifinal victory: More Team USA Stars need to step up in Gold Medal Game
As great as it is to have stars stepping up like the previous three players listed, it’s hard to confidently say that’ll be enough to get the win in the gold medal game. Even if it could be enough, it shouldn’t have to. This Team USA group is way too loaded to not have bigger contributions from a couple of players that are getting decent playing time.
First is Lillard, who hasn’t gotten going in any of Team USA’s games outside of their blowout victory over Iran. Since that game, he has connected on just 4-17 three-point attempts after going 0-2 against Australia. Not only would his scoring be a huge help in the gold medal game but a more assertive Bam Adebayo could give the U.S. what they’ve been missing since Olympic play began.
A physical presence not only on the glass but around the rim would make all the shooters on the team very happy. Adebayo can dominate a lot of international bigs in this year’s Olympics but he hasn’t really done it yet. What better time than in the gold medal game?
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