Guess France forgot to play defense....
So, Day 1 of the Olympic Basketball tournament was....underwhelming, to say the least. Team USA and Spain destroyed their opponents, while Brazil, Nigeria, Russia, and Argentina all rolled to predictable wins. Nigeria and Brazil were challenged somewhat near the end, but for the most part, the conclusion was clear.
But it has set the stage for who's for real and who's fronting in the context of the Olympic Tournament. Some teams came out to play, others looked overwhelmed.
Look below for a quick recap of the games of Team USA and Spain, and a power ranking of all of the Olympic teams after Game 1.
Though many like to cite Team USA's pressure around the perimeter, that's not what won them this game. In fact, going into the game, France's main weak point was turnovers, and many thought it would be tonight's defining factor. While France predictably lost the turnover battle, they also lost heavily in two other areas: Three point shooting and rebounding.
The earlier discrepancy can be accounted to Team USA's pressure, but I count it mostly to the pace of the game. France is an inside-oriented team, having taken the lowest amount of threes per game in the entire Eurobasket tournament. But keeping the game at a fast pace, giving France room to shoot the three, and locking down the paint kept the normally high-scoring France outside of their comfort zone, and encouraged them to shoot excessive amounts of triples.
Rebounding, contrary to popular belief, is a huge advantage for Team USA. In Chandler and Love, they have two of the NBA's very best rebounders, while Durant and James are the league's best rebounders at their position. They'll win the battle against nearly any international opponent, and against a team that just lost Joakim Noah (whos rebounding was more important than his offense), that's an easy task.
But in the end, I chalk the win up to France's lack of matchup advantages against Team USA. For the most part, they rely on the same things Team USA does. Energy and stealing defensively, and a fast pace and inside drives offensively. The thing is, Team USA is the more talented team, and France doesn't have the offensive firepower to compete.
Kevin Durant led all scorers with 22 points, and registered and impressive 9 rebounds and 3-5 shooting from downtown. Russell Westbrook finished with 9 Points, 4 Rebounds, and 3 Assists, while James Harden had 5 points.
China was surprisingly competitive in this game, leading during points of the first and nearly narrowing the game to single digits in the third. But by all accounts, Spain was the dominant team. China's most obvious problem one could see while watching the game was their dual 7 footer combination of Wang Zhi Zhi and Yi Jianlian. For all the good they did on offense they lost doublefold on defense, because they weren't quick enough to challenge the sharpshooting of Gasol or Ibaka.
Otherwise, China's bench still proved to be a big lot of nothing. Jinhua Chen had a nice game at PG, but it was pretty apparent that whenever China's starters were benched during the second and third quarters, the team started to suffer.
Lastly, like France in the Team USA game, China was destroyed on the boards. It's hard to believe given the size of the team, but again, their bigs aren't very aggressive or fast, and Spain gave a great team effort, with all members but three registering at least two boards.
Serge Ibaka had a strong game, going for 17 points and 5 boards.
Below: Power Rankings!
Power Rankings after Day 1:
Instead of giving you a boring game-by-game recap of the other matches, I figured I'd make a quick power ranking chart every other day stating how a team is doing.
1. Team USA (1-0, Def. France)
After a defeat of powerhouse France, they easily look like the tournament's strongest competitors. Exceptional offense, exceptional rebounding, exceptional defense.
2. Russia (1-0, Def. Great Britain)
I know Spain had a good game as well, but while Spain somewhat struggled with China, Russia was able to blow the arguably stronger Great Britain out of the water. Vitaly Fridzon is emerging as a breakout bench scorer for the team after a quiet Eurobasket.
3. Spain (1-0, Def. China)
Spain is still Spain, and they did what they needed to do against China. But the team needs to work to get their guards more involved. However, Ibaka figures to be a much bigger part of their offense than he ever was in Oklahoma City.
4. Argentina (1-0, Def. Lithuania)
It's really hard to put these guys in fourth after a total dismantling of Lithuania and a spectacular offensive performance. But we've still yet to see this team perform on a consistent basis, and I'll remain skeptical of their worth until they do so.
5. Brazil (1-0, Def. Australia)
Brazil had a solid win over Australia, but given their talent, you can't help but think they could have done more. They rely on different scorers every night, and they struggle if they can't hit the three.
6. France (0-1, Loss to Team USA)
France is certainly not looking good after their initial loss, but they're still getting used to having Turiaf on the team without Noah, and need to adjust their gameplan accordingly. They need to focus more on paint defense and less on rebounding, while learning how to use Tony Parker in the half court.
7. Australia (0-1, Loss to Brazil)
They're a solid team and will probably upset someone before this tournament is done, but they don't have a whole lot of individual talent, and rely way too much on the three. They're good at controlling the pace, though.
8. Nigeria (1-0, Def. Tunisia)
Nigeria pretty much had the Tunisian game in hand, but they nearly let it slip away with another pitiful offensive dip caused by a lack of distribution. This was a huge problem for them during the qualifying tournament, and will need to be rectified if they're to be successful here.
9. Lithuania (0-1, Loss to Argentina)
Going into day 1, I would think there was 0 chance of me putting Lithuania 9th on this list. But they're really smarting without their former center, Robertas Javtokas. Luis Scola was able to wipe the floor for a stunning 32 points, and Ginobili drew fouls with ease. Lithuania couldn't even get the three ball going, which is normally their forte. Hopefully they can recover. Otherwise, it will be a hugely disappointing year for Lithuanian fans.
10. China (0-1, Loss to Spain)
They're looking determined, but limited. If they can find a way to get their bench going and use the advantages a big lineup gets them, they might be able to sneak into the tournament.
11. Great Britain (0-1, Loss to Russia)
12. Tunisia (0-1, Loss to Nigeria)
They're consistently mediocre, which is the best I can say about them.
What do you think of yesterday's results? Who tops your power rankings? Vote in the poll, post a comment!
Who's atop your Power Rankings after Day 1?
Team USA (50 votes)
Russia (2 votes)
Spain (3 votes)
Argentina (1 vote)
Brazil (0 votes)
Nigeria (2 votes)
58 total votes