ISTANBUL — The U.S. National Team wrapped up pool play with an easy 92-57 win over Tunisia that meant nothing as far as the Group B standings or round-of-16 seeding was concerned.
I’ll have an overview of pool play across all four groups and a lookahead to the round of 16 later on today. For now, here are a few notes on today’s first game at the Abdi Ipekci Arena.
This was not this team’s best day. In fact, the first half, which the U.S. won by just six points, was embarrassing.
Of course, it wasn’t as bad as the scoreboard told it, because the pace of that first half was so unbearably slow. Each team had just 33 possessions in the first half. Part of that was due to the number of offensive rebounds each team had (15 total if you count team offensive boards), but it was still an ugly half no matter how you slice it.
Speaking of offensive boards, that was the U.S. Team’s biggest problem this afternoon. Tunisia grabbed 20 of its own misses. Add five more defensive boards that the U.S. was unable to secure (counted as team offensive rebounds for Tunisia) and you have 25 second opportunities for the underdog.
Defensive rebounding hasn’t been a big issue for the U.S. through its first four games (Brazil had zero second-chance points in Monday’s thriller), but Tunisia was arguably the its first opponent that really went after offensive boards.
Rudy Gay suffered a slightly strained groin (right side) in the first half, slipping one of the decals in the middle of the floor and did not play in the second half.
Gay talked of the injury like it was minor and said that he’ll be fine by Monday, when the U.S. will play Angola in the round of 16.
“It’s nothing too much,” Gay said. “I’ve been through stuff like this before and I know how to get better.”
Eric Gordon was the leading scorer with 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting (4-for-7 from 3-point range). He also was aggressive defending the ball, picking up three steals.
I know it’s hard to be critical of Kevin Love with the per-minute production he’s had, but he’s too quick to shoot threes when he’s on the floor. Mike Krzyzewski has given him the green light to shoot from out there, but that doesn’t mean he should be taking every one the defense gives him, especially when it’s early in the shot clock.
Of course, he took just one three on Thursday and was 3-for-7 from 3-point range in pool play, so maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about.
As a team, the U.S. shot 1-for-10 from 3-point range in the first half and 9-for-16 in the second half.
One of the things the U.S. team needs right now is some practice time. By the time they finally hit the practice floor on Saturday (after a day off Friday), it will have been more than a week since they practiced.
But Krzyzewski took advantage of some extra pre-game time (which comes with playing the first game of the day), and had some personal instruction for Love and Tyson Chandler on the floor about an hour before game time.