USA-France Notes

Posted by John Schuhmann

NEW YORK – Here’s the analysis of today’s USA-France game. The good: the defense. The bad: the half-court offense.

And here are the highlights…

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Just how good has the defense been? China and France scored a total of 104 points against it on 156 possessions. That’s an efficiency of just 66.7 points per 100 possessions.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has scored 184 points on 158 possessions, which is 116.5 per 100.

Of course, teams like Spain, Greece and Brazil will be more efficient offensively. And that won’t allow the U.S. to run as much. So their half-court offense will need to improve quite a bit over the next couple of weeks if they want to beat those teams.

The good news is that, though Brazil is in their pool-play group, the U.S. doesn’t need to be perfect in those first five games. They basically have nine more games (three exhibition games, five preliminary games, and a round-of-16 game against a not-so-great opponent) before they really need to be sharp.

But I always think back to the gold medal game two years ago. The U.S. relied on stifling defense through it’s first seven games in Beijing, but in their final game, they gave up 107 points to Spain and needed to make some big shots to bring home gold. This team doesn’t have the offensive firepower to score 118 against another good team like the ’08 team did. The margin for error is much slimmer.

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As I wrote in today’s analysis, I thought Rondo was the key to the U.S. defense. He didn’t register one steal, but he got his hands on the ball plenty. Watching him pester the French guards made me want to fast forward to the first time he and Ricky Rubio go at each other. Even though it will just be an exhibition game, it will be a must-watch.

I asked Chauncey Billups after the game if he likes teaming with a guard like Rondo, who can be a full-court ball hawk.

“Definitely,” he said. “My rule with whoever I’m in the game with, D-Rose, Rondo, ‘you all pick up full.’ I have had my days of doing that.”

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Speaking of the Rondo-Rubio matchup, here’s the rest of the exhibition schedule in case you want to set your TiVos early…

Sat. Aug. 21 vs. Lithuania (Madrid) – 3 p.m. ET, ESPN

Sun. Aug. 22 vs. Spain (Madrid) – 3 p.m. ET, NBA TV

Wed. Aug. 25 vs, Greece (Athens) – 12 p.m. ET, ESPN

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I thought the crowd at MSG was great today. It will be quite different in Madrid and Athens, of course.

“This us kind of what you expect being in The Garden,” Billups said. “This is the first time I’ve been in The Garden and people have been cheering for me, though.”

***

I think every one of us covering this team has gone back and forth as far as who we think the cuts will be. But right now, there’s a consensus that the last one is between Stephen Curry, Eric Gordon and Russell Westbrook.

The idea of bringing an extra shooter over an extra point guard makes sense, and Westbrook was the last to check into today’s game (at the 7:14 mark in the fourth), but I really feel those last two spots on the roster are still up for grabs and that nothing will be set until at least next Monday (after the two games in Madrid).

One reason for keeping Westbrook would be for Rondo insurance. Not that Rondo’s a real injury risk (he’s missed just 12 games in his four-year NBA career), but you might want another ball-hawk in case he gets in foul trouble.

Still, I think it will be tough to cut Curry or Gordon with the way they’ve been shooting. Stay tuned.

***

We will have a full look at the 13 players left on the roster Monday on the site. Stay tuned to the twitter for the link when it’s posted.

***

Back in ’08, there were a couple of developments with the U.S. Team that affected the NBA the following season. The biggest, of course, was the play of Dwyane Wade as he came back from his shoulder and knee surgeries. The other was the commitment to defense that a lot of those players made when they returned to their NBA teams. Dwight Howard’s defensive improvement stood out most, and he’s been the Defensive Player of the Year in both seasons since.

This year, I think there are a couple of similar storylines. Neither will have quite the impact that the ’08 developments had, but I will definitely be writing about them in the next few weeks.

The first is the health of Tyson Chandler. After two years of battling foot injuries, Chandler looks great. He told me today that he hasn’t felt this good since he and the Hornets took the Spurs to seven games in the ’08 conference semifinals.

The second is the play of Andre Iguodala. He’s clearly a much different player when he can play the Pippen role and doesn’t have to carry the offensive load. If Evan Turner could be the man offensively in Philly, I think they could be a vastly improved team, but I’m afraid that Turner isn’t quite ready yet. His Summer League performance was pretty disappointing.

***

The team leaves for Madrid on Monday. I will not be with them in Spain or Greece, but we will continue to have plenty of coverage here on NBA.com, and I will join the team when they get to Istanbul on Aug. 26.

More USA Basketball coverage: Analysis | Blog

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Follow him on twitter.

10 Comments

  1. #9 says:

    @Nick haha thanks 4 making me laugh (who worries about somebody else typing on da IE) u have no life comment on da article not me,lame.

  2. Eddie says:

    Guys,

    I was at the Madision Square Garden and saw both games, USA vs France and China vs PR. One thing’s for sure, the USA is a soid team; however, speed alone doesn’t win games and I saw them struggle against an NBA depleted French team. Istanbul is going to be a different story to tell – this USA team runs a good chance of losing a game or two, though they will medal and most likely will be Gold, but not undefeated. Call it what you want, a win is a win, but they were sloppy…really! I was there and you can appreciate things better than on NBA TV.

    The next game China vs PR – well between Arroyo and Barea they had more assists combined in the game than then entire USA team combined in the previous game. Don’t take this PR team from granted – it is by far much better and improved than the team that beat the USA team in Athens back in 2004…much better!…and….PR has a faster backcourt team in these two guards (unfairly underated) plus good backups at every position. PR’s big men not only can run, but can score extremely well in the paint and from the behind the 3 point line. I’m just wondering why the USA Team management decided not to hold scrimmages with Puerto Rico as they did in the past?

    PR is in the toughest bracket of the entire tournament, so don’t rule them out just yet – China, though not an official game, was step one…my prediction is that if PR makes it past the first stage, we will see the USA in the medal round though the Gold will go to the USA. In the end, having USA and Puerto Rico bring Gold and Silver back to North America would be an awesome thing to see.

  3. tenki says:

    2010 really needs to improve their game. Their comparison to the 2008 Redeem Team is the next best thing after 1992. They simply can’t afford to lose big guys because it will drastically affect the shooter’s role in the team.

    As for the Rubio-Rondo matchup, I think it will be great because Rubio had his time to mature outside the NBA, and Rondo has proven his mettle by orchestrating his team twice in the Finals. We should look forward to know who’s gonna be taken to school.

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  7. unkle says:

    He seems to get pidgin-holed as just a scorer, but Curry is a point guard who is a heck of a good shooter. Anyone who watched him last year would see that. Runs the team and makes great passes. He’ll make the team for his versatility. Also, his brother is playing for Coach K at Duke so I’m sure that won’t hurt also.

  8. #9 says:

    I havnt seen Rubio play dat much but i know he has alot of hype around him,that being said i cant wait until Rondo and Rose put dat pressure D on him leaving him under da double digit mark in pts.

    Billups and Gay killed in da scrimmage (i forgot billups could light up da score board like dat) and Rondo controlled da half court offense good and on ball D cant b stoped when hes going 110% on you (not worrying about stamina with constant subs)haha Rose looked out of control 4 most of da game but he finally calmed down at da end.Westbrook looks like he’s next (can tell by his min.) but he still have some games and practices 2 prove himself.

    Also lol to all the media(including Schuhmann) dat said Rondo was at risk of getting cut,most likely he’ll be starting.