U.S. crushes Slovenia, rolls into semifinals


VIDEO: Team USA rolls into semifinals with rout of Slovenia

BARCELONA — Spain has supplanted the U.S. National Team as the trendy pick to win gold here at the FIBA World Cup.

Everybody from TNT’s very own Charles Barkley to members of the teams the U.S. crushes on their way to Thursday’s semifinal have chimed in and sided with the host nation Spaniards.

After the U.S. used one of the their trademark blitzes to run Slovenia off the floor at Palau Saint Jordi 119-76 in Tuesday’s quarterfinal, Phoenix Suns All-NBA point guard Goran Dragic weighed in with his belief that Spain is indeed the favorite.

That’s fine with the stars on the U.S. team, whose refusal to panic when things are tight early has become a hallmark for this bunch. Starters James Harden and Steph Curry were scoreless at halftime and the lead was just 49-42.

Not a problem. Not when Klay Thompson (20 points) and Derrick Rose (12) are your “backups.”

A swift 18-5 third quarter run later and the U.S. was off to the races, cashing in with its 61st straight win in World Cup/World Championship/Olympic and international competition, and one step closer to that date with Spain in Sunday’s gold medal game in Madrid.

“I thought we played really hard the whole game and we just couldn’t finish in the first half some of those plays,” U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said, “and then they stayed with it and then the floodgates opened in the second half.”

The U.S. faces Lithuania, a 73-61 winner of Turkey in Tuesday’s first game, Thursday at 3 p.m. ET.

They’ll do so having played arguably their best game, so far, of the competition. They stroked Finland by 59 points in their opener last week in pool play. But beating Slovenia down was a tougher task.

“It was tough. They are a really good team,” Harden said. “They kind of slowed us down in the first half, dictated the tempo. Coach talked to us at halftime about playing our brand of basketball and how we like to play. And we came out with that intensity.”

Harden did heat up, scoring 12 of his 14 points in the third quarter. Kenneth Faried finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds and Anthony Davis 13 and 11. The depth the U.S. boasts is like no other team in this competition, not even a seasoned Spanish team.

Rose, in particular, had his teammates fired up.

“You [saw] him,” Harden said of Rose. “He looked amazing. He’s so quick and athletic, the way he followed the holes and finished … he made some amazing passes tonight. He was phenomenal.”

While it certainly helped having Thompson in a groove from the start on both ends, Rose needed a push. With the Coach K mandate that he play with a green light, Rose was as aggressive as he’s been offensively at any point in the tournament.

Rose was just 8-for-37 shooting before Tuesday, so whatever color his light was prior to seeing Slovenia, is anyone’s guess.

“It eased me a little bit,” Rose said. “Gave me a lot of confidence. I’m not lacking in confidence, but when the head coach tells you to go out there and be aggressive it makes you think in another way. Coach gave me that green light and said go out there and play the way I play. Don’t worry about getting other guys involved … I felt good.”

On a team that is suddenly dealing with an underdog status, at least here in Spain, Rose, Thompson and some of these other elite reserves are finding a rhythm at just the right time.

Just in time for Thursday’s semifinals and then on to Madrid, where the underdogs might finally have their say about who should really wear the favorite’s tag.

10 Comments

  1. Bill says:

    Based on what I have seen, if the US Team players don’t see Spain as a threat to winning the title, they will lose to them.

    The US offense is still way too much one-on-one and was terrible in the first half against Slovenia. US won this game by crushing Slovenia on the offensive boards and that is not going to happen against Spain’s front line,

    In addition to the offensive woes, Curry and Harden are causing issues in the back court back court because both are defensive liabilities. Coach K really needs to consider bringing them off of the bench and cutting their minutes in my estimation.

    Bottom line, this team is clearly not as talented as USA teams in recent past and Spain is the home team. Therefore, Spain is well positioned to bring home the title.

  2. TTKIN says:

    I want the US to win, but I don’t completely disagree with Chuck.

    The frontline of Spain, mixed with the zone defense played predominantly in FIBA, Team USA is gonna have a difficult time getting to the rim, which is what opens up their shooters. If Spain controls the tempo and slows it down, Team USA could be in trouble.

    Not saying itll happen, I think both teams are stacked well together. Just reminds me of the 2011 Finals. The Miami Heat would be Team USA, clearly more talented top-to-bottom. And the Dallas Mavs would be Spain. A team of guys playing together, not individuals who never play with one another.

    Which will win? Overall talent? Or Team basketball built on chemistry?

  3. Mladen says:

    Come pn guys – Irving made the change and you don’t mention him? He scored crucial points in the 3rd and changed usa offense completely. He was out when it was +20. He didn’t have a single turnover, he stole 4 balls while it was still close to make the difference.

  4. #30 says:

    Charles EBak needs to shout his mouth. lol

  5. wheresthabeet? says:

    I don’t know why the Chuckster is saying that Spain will win the Gold. USA has the best starters AND the deepest bench. And?

  6. jumppong says:

    As for Rose i was hoping he will not injured himself again..

  7. Trix says:

    Did Dragic lose by 43 and go on to say Spain is the favorites? I get Spain is good and their big man will take away the advantage team USA had against all other teams. But for Draigc to say that, it sounds like he is a bitter looser to me.

    • idenadesno says:

      spain’s core has been intact for many years now, even though the usa has a good team, they have no chance against gasol brothers and ibaka under the basket, and llull, rubio, rudy and rodriguez are just terrific. The USA may have better team individually, but spain has won tournaments with this team, and aside from all that, they are the hosts

    • BZ says:

      Have you seen the game?

      First half was very tight regarding to the overall qualities of Slovenian players.
      That means that US team is a couple of levels above other teams regarding athletic abilities. And that prevailed in the second half. US team had backup players of the same quality and Slovenia has 1 player, who can somehow compare to US players.

      In this tournament there are unmatched individual qualities in the US team, but team-wise (system) there are more than 5 European teams, that are at least comparable, if not better. The problem is, they get crushed in 40 minutes because they are physically inferior and not deep enough.

      Spain has probably the only team that has very good players on the bench, they have a few players that could compare to US in individual quality or even beat them (C and PF position for sure) and are far superior team (system) wise.

      As for Dragić, I think he didn’t believe his team could even remotely match with US team, even for one half. In a country of 2 million people, it is hard to put together good team if 5 of the best Slovenian players in individual quality are not in a team (you could make it a starting five with those: PG Beno Udrih, SG Sasha Vujačić, SF Boštjan Nachbar, PF Erazem Lorbek and Gašper Vidmar at C).

      Missing 5 players from a 2 million pool … Dragić was shocked they competed for a half.

      • BZ says:

        Nachbar retired from national team last year, Lorbek and Vidmar are injured (otherwise both in starting lineup). Udrih and Vujačić don’t fit in the team.