WASHINGTON – The U.S. Women’s Senior National Team has only been back together for three days following the first half of the WNBA season. And in Monday’s exhibition against Brazil, they were missing starting point guard Sue Bird, out ecause of a death in her family.
The result was some sloppy play and trouble with pressure defense. The U.S. committed 22 turnovers in the game, including 10 in their first 15 possessions of the second half.
That doesn’t mean that they had any real trouble with Brazil, a team with medal aspirations in London. Holding Brazil to just 32 percent shooting, the U.S. cruised to an easy 99-67 victory.
However, Monday’s game made it clear to the U.S. where there is work to be done, as well as how valuable Bird is to this squad. Starting in Bird’s place, Lindsay Whalen was the only point guard the U.S. had on Monday, and she played great, filling the boxscore with a team-high 21 points, five rebounds and five assists.
But Diana Taurasi, the team’s starting shooting guard and best scorer, was forced into back-up point guard duties and committed six of the team’s turnovers. And as a group, the U.S. just didn’t handle it well when Brazil decided to give them a taste of their own medicine with some full-court pressure in the second quarter.
The U.S. pressure was still better than Brazil’s. Tamika Catchings is a four-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, and she clearly made an impact on that end on Monday, picking up two steals, two blocks and few more additional deflections. In fact, she didn’t even let Brazil get the ball across half-court on their first possession of the game, stripping Adriana Pinto at the foul line and cruising in for a layup to put the U.S. up 4-0.
The U.S. led 21-5 midway through the first quarter, but never really poured it on until late, because of their struggles in taking care of the ball.
With the WNBA season keeping them apart while other teams have been working together, the U.S. Women know they are at a disadvantage. And as they leave for Manchester for their next exhibition game against Great Britain, they have just 10 days to clean things up.
Monday’s game against Brazil was a gentle reminder of just how much needs to be done before they get to London.