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