Saturday, July 28, 2012

What to Look for in the Olympics

Well, 2 US gold. One would hope.

What else?

Well, I guess you'd have to say that the women have been more impressive than the men so far, out-scoring 5 exhibition opponents 95-62 to the men's 99-73. I mean there's not much to pick from there. But the closest game for the women was a 19-point win over Turkey, 80-61, in Turkey. For the men it was 86-80 vs. Argentina. On the other hand, they man-handled a good Spanish team, in Spain, 100-78.

So, the initial point remains. Anything less than 2 golds will be a huge surprise, disappointment, upset, etc. etc.

The Men

Cocah K started LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Tyson Chandler, his only real center, in all 5 games. Chris Paul started 4 of 5 at the point. Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony split the 5th spot, and its that 5th spot that is the focus of the US offense. The 2 combined to score 31 ppg while shooting about 55 percent. (LeBron led the way with 19 points on 59 percent shooting, but that's more LeBron and less Coach K's offensive scheme.)

The US out-shot its opponents 52-43 percent from the field and won the possession game +12, grabbing an extra 3 offensive boards and creating 10 extra turnovers. Those turnovers led to a lot of easy breakaway baskets for the US, ergo their 52 percent shooting and 59 percent on 2-point attempts.

If anybody is going to beat the US that opponent--like Argentina in the exhibition game--will minimize turnovers. Argentina, with Manu Ginobili as their main ball-handler, committed just 13 turnovers. Forced to play mostly in the half-court, the US shot just 45 percent. If the US is going to lose, it will probably be due to shooting itself in the foot at the FT line. The US shot 66 percent from the line in the 5 exhibitions, and against Argentina it was outshot 66-55 percent.

Kevin Love has been odd man out so far, playing just 12 minutes per game. Only James Harden and rookie Anthony Davis have played less. Love is next to last in scoring with 4 points but has 4 boards per game in those 12 minutes. He's sharing space with Chandler (5 starts, 13 minutes) and Davis (9 minutes). The US has played 7 minutes per game without a post player on the floor.

The Women

The Minnesota Lynx are a huge part of this team with Lindsay Whalen leading a balanced scoring effort with 11 ppg and adding 3 assists in 20 minutes in the 5 exhibitions, while shooting a ridiculous 62 percent. Maya Moore has played 21 minutes, scoring 11 points with 6 boards and 3 assists. Seimone Augustus leads the team with 22 minutes, scoring 10 points on 50 percent shooting.

Still, these are the Connecticut Huskies/Suns out there, with Gina Auriemma in charge and Diana Taurasi, Tina Charles, Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Moore and Lindsay Whalen playing 112 out of 200 minutes per game.

Taurasi is the focus. She, too, is scoring 11 ppg (along with Whalen, Moore and Sylvia Fowles) with 3 assists. She has started all 5 games including 2 at the point when Sue Bird was out. From here on out, you can look for Taurasi--along with Candace Parker and Tamika Catchings, who also started all 5 games--to do most of the scoring. Parker and Catchings scored 9 ppg on 46 percent shooting in the exhibition season.

Less certain is the starters at the point and the post. It says here that Gino will go with what he knows, which means Sue Bird at the point ahead of Lindsay, and Tina Charles at the post ahead of Fowles.

Does the US have a weakness? Well, it shot 37.5 percent from 3-point land while opponents shot 32, that's not a huge differential. But it shot 52 percent on 2-point attempts to just 38 percent. And it won the possession game easily with a 16-9 edge on the offensive glass and a 25-17 edge in turnovers. Like the US men, anybody who is going to stay with the women is going to have to take care of the ball. And unlike the men, I don't think the women will face anybody who can do that well enough.

So, can anybody make a run at the US? No. Australia should emerge from the other pool to face the US in the gold medal game on August 11, but even with former NBA MVP Lauren Jackson back at full strength after a year of injuries, I don't think Australia has the athleticism to stay with the US.

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