LONDON – All that chatter about battling the original Dream Team will have to wait now that the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team has more pressing matters at hand.
France awaits this morning in the Olympic opener for both teams. And there is no shortage of confidence from that side, as they and every other team here goes into the competition with two things on the brain: earning a medal and springing the upset over the favored U.S. team.
“For us there is no fear factor because we play against them all the time,” Spurs All-Star and France captain Tony Parker said. “We know they are really, really good. But it’s not going to be like the other teams where they don’t see them and it’s like, ‘Oh, wow, I’m playing against Kobe [Bryant] and LeBron [James].'”
After winning gold in Beijing and seeing the development of some of the other teams in the field, there are 12 teams overall, this is exactly the sort of attitude U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski expected to see after the “Redeem Team” took home the top prize four years ago.
“The overall 12 teams are more talented, more seasoned. Spain is just in the prime of their — 28, 29 (years of age),” he said. “Brazil is in that wheelhouse. I think Russia’s really, really good. Obviously Argentina, everyone says they’re older but their heart and talent has not gotten older, It’s just gotten better. There’s just more teams that feel that they have a chance to win the gold medal – and medal – than they did in ’08.”
James is certain that will bring out the best in his crew.
“We’re here to win the gold,” he said. “Everybody expects us to win and that’s what we’re here to do.”
Let the games begin!
– FINAL –
USA 98, FRANCE 71
Well-earned hugs from the First Lady as the team exits the floor.
– FOURTH QUARTER –
0.0: 98-71 U.s. routs France in a game that was supposed to be much closer than this. The tone-setter the U.S. was looking for is complete. They played well basically everywhere and struggled in the two categories that always worry about, 3-point and free throw shooting. Yet, they made enough of them when it mattered and rang up 98 points in the process.
2:32: Not sure what else anyone needs to see from the U.S. right now. They’re cruising in this one (up 93-65) and never really had to sweat it. France has been the big disappointment. They’re talking about being a medal team … but I’ll need to see better than this effort to believe that one.
4:54: Davis catches the nice oop from D. Will for the 87-62 lead.
5:09: de Colo finally hits one, a deep and uncontested 3-pointer. The white shirts are up 85-62 and the U.S. really isn’t pushing as hard as they could.
6:24: Coach K is getting his Harry Potter on right now with these lineups. He’s got CP3 and D. will out there together with Davis, Harden and Igoudala. #getyourwizardon
7:06: Anthony Davis getting a little burn here. Great game to get him some work in. France isn’t great down there. But they have physical bigs that will give him a nice simulation of what’s to come.
8;42: This is the lineup that really makes the U.S. fun to watch. Harden and Westbrook in the backcourt, Love, Durant and Iguodala up front and de Colo still looks completely out of place. He’s gonna have to get some good junk time minutes in here to make me a believer.
– THIRD QUARTER –
0.0: Love with a putback on a D. Will miss finishess off the third at 78-51. I was expecting much more of a challenge from France. But they are clearly no math for the U.S. They just don’t have another gear.
1:49: Parker picks up his third foul with the U.S. up 71-51. Better get him a break right now and keep him away from that fourth or this thing gets super ugly in the fourth without him on the floor.
2:14: Love is having a nice game, even though he’s getting pushed around a bit on the defensive end.
3:55: France still chasing, down 66-48. Just don’t see an extra gear out of them right now. Seraphin has been a bit of a revelation, though. Don’t get to see a whole lot of him in the NBA. But he’s looking good today. Huge and showing a nice shooting touch and some post moves you might not have known he had.
4:41: LeBron goes airborne for the oop and the 64-43 lead. He’s putting on an all-around show. Durant has no doubt been the best scorer on the floor today. But LeBron is far and away the best all around player here. Seriously, it’s not even close.
5:22: We’ve been sitting here in the press area debating Diaw and what sort of venom he might get from U.S. fans if he was a homegrown product with all of his skills who is never in shape. He gets a huge free pass in that department.
7:23: Chandler really is the ideal big for the international game in that he’s a fantastic defender and shot blocker (two very different things) and he doesn’t need the ball to get going, but can also be lethal in the pick and roll if he’s finishing at or near the rim.
8:49: Kobe knocks down the ol’ “anythign you can do I can do better” 3-pointer to push the lead to 58-38.
9:21: Durant drains another 3-pointer for a 55-36 lead.
10:00: Not trying to be funny, but halftime felt like it lasted an hour. Finally, we get the game back.
– SECOND QUARTER –
0.0: Harden misses yet another 3 but the U.S. has firm control of this one up 52-36 at halftime.
45.8: Two FTs from Durant after he was fouled on a wicked behind-the-back pass on the break from D. Will. 52-36 and climbign since France can’t seem to hang on to the ball.
1:24: LeBron’s dunk on a sweet feed from Harden makes it 50-36. They’re making it look easy right now.
2:26: Another corner 3 for Durant off of a textbook screen from Lovemakes it 48-33. Durant is s such a versatile player. He can go of the dribble or he can spot up, can play inside and out (depending on the opponent) and shoots it as well as anyone in this competition.
3:40: Love does the same exact thing, park at the line and wait on a feed from LeBron, on the break and the leads stretches to 43-28.
4:21: Thank you, Durant knocks one down a nice feed from LeBron. Love follows that with a putback for a 40-28 USA lead.
4:50: The U.S. still can’t find the mark from deep, they’re just 3-for-13 after back-to-back misses from Harden on the same possession. Patience and they will get what they want. But they have to stop taking rushed 3s.
5:32: Durant gets the great block on Diaw as the shot clock winds down but Westbrook picks up his third foul chasing the rebound out to mid court, where he body blocked Batum to the floor. Batum sinks two of the three FTs.33-26 USA.
6:20: After praising the officials for allowing some really physical play in Brazil’s win over Australia before this game, they’ve into touch foul mode. Coach K is letting loose after Melo picks up his third foul on a weak call.
7:38: CP3 with another 3-pointer from the corner off of a nice feed from LeBron. All of a sudden the U.S. has the 3-ball working. 33-21 USA.
7:46: Entire crowd, including the First Lady, just serenaded some fan in the crowd with an ugly rendition of Happy Birthday.
7:46: Bokolo gets the ultimate lesson in reaching on defense … reach in on a crafty old PG like Paul and miss and you might catch an elbow on the come back that leaves a little blood in your mouth.
8:36: Five quick points from Kobe and just like that the U.S. lead is 30-21.
9:28: LeBron with the step back 3-pointer to give the U.S. their first make from distance. This is the time you would expect him to crank it up.
– FIRST QUARTER –
0.0: Big 3-pointer from Bokolo at the buzzer makes it a 22-21 U.S. lead in a game that is much more physical and much tighter than any of us expected. (Nate McMillan’s lean back and The U.S. is 0-for-6 from deep and just like Coach K said, unable to out-athlete France so far.
28.2: Some serious ahnd-to-hand combat under the basket from both sides as they battle for position on some of these rebounds.
41.9: Still waiting to see something from de Colo that would get Spurs fans excited. He’s the one guy on the floor that looks a bit out of place right now. Lots
55.0: Had a nice little clock glitch here that caused a two minute delay as Chandler drains two free throws for a 21-17 U.S. lead
1:39: Parker takes a nasty fall trying to go up with Melo for a rebound. But gets right up, with an assist from Melo.
2:42: France with the zone look now. The U.S. has stayed away from taking ill-advised 3-pointers in the early going here. This France team can’t push them around inside so there is no need to be anything but patient. They’ll get what they want when they want it.
3:16: Diaw just flattened D. Will on a screen, something you’ve never seen him do to anyone in the NBA. France hanging tough.
5:31: Any switch on Parker that leaves one of the bigs on him is an instant drive to the basket. But he’s gonna have to stay in attack mode for France to have a chance.
5:44: Gelabale picks up his third foul on a Bryant drive to the bucket. At this rate, he’ll beat Chandler and Turiaf to the penalty box.
6:42: Batum caught Duran’t first layup off the glass for a nice block. On the very next possession Durant catches a sweet pass from LeBron and smashes on Batum and gets the foul. 11-5 USA.
7:33: The First Lady, Michelle Obama, is in the house. And did you know that when “Crazy” (Gnarls Barkley) comes on in the arena the crowd starts clapping? Never knew they did it like that.
8:05: This game will be a test for both Chanlder and Turiaf to see who can stay in the game the longest. They’re both prone to crazy foul trouble.
9:39 on game clock: LeBron tosses an ally-oop to Chandler to kick things off for the U.S. Chandler missed the FT but all the work they did in pre-game warmups trying to perfect the oop toss makes sense now.
– PREGAME –
Kobe gets the loudest ovation of anyone during introductions. Say what you want, he’s still the international king of hoops to most folks!