Team USA vs. The Dominican Republic
Yes, today is the first day that we'll finally get to see Team USA in action. Unfortunately, their thin front line just got even thinner, with Blake Griffin falling to injury. He's flying to LA to get it evaluated so it's unknown how long he'll be out, but he definitely won't be in tonight's contest. This leaves Team USA with just Kevin Love and Tyson Chandler as traditionally front court players.
Most likely, this means that you'll see a whole lot of small ball from the team. In fact, Coach K straight up admitted it while talking on NBATV a couple of days ago. For the Thunder players, this most likely means Kevin Durant could get minutes at power forward or even center, while Russell Westbrook will probably have to play a good deal of off-ball offense at shooting guard.
So, does the Dominican Republic stand any chance of winning today? Before I answer that question, I'd just like to say that the Dominicans are better than you think they are. In other words, they 'aint no Cuba. They have two NBA players in Al Horford and Francisco Garcia. They also have Yack Michael Martinez, who is great at grabbing rebounds and pretty much performed better than Al Horford in the 2012 Olympic Qualifying tournament. In that tournament, the Dominican Republic finished 4th, losing to Nigeria in the game determining the final Olympic spot.
The Dominican Republic's main strength is rebounding, which could mean trouble for Team USA. They aren't overly big, but Martinez and Al Horford are some of the game's best at clearing out space, and they battle for offensive boards well. They're also an excellent three point shooting team, with pretty much every player on their roster (aside from Martinez) able to hoist up the three ball with decent accuracy.
But, the Dominicans have some glaring weaknesses that Team USA should be able to take advantage of. Their offense is incredibly inconsistent. A lot of that falls on the shoulders of Garcia and Horford, who rely on their streaky jumpshots. That and the offense isn't very fluid because it uses a lot of putbacks and doesn't have a true point guard at the helm.
In other words, the only real way for the Dominican Republic to win would be if they could dominate the rebounding game and somehow find a way to consistently score. But Team USA is simply too quick, and has the defenders necessary to neutralize all Dominican threats. They were pretty lucky to get as far as they did in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, overcoming a 20 point deficit against the Bo McCalebb centered Macedonian team.
Team USA should make pretty quick work of the Dominicans, probably making their lead insurmountable by the third quarter and cruising to victory while testing out different lineups. But today's game is only the first step in a long journey towards the eventual goal of a gold medal.
Prediction: Team USA 107, Dominican Republic 76