I know I say this every game, but man, you've got to give credit to Australia for hanging around in this one. They came out as massive underdogs, but didn't change anything about their game. They played the same strategy as Team USA did, but managed to stay within striking distance for three quarters, once even getting within three in the third.
The Australians strategy was to mostly keep pushing the ball as they always did. They fired up a lot of quick threes, and always had guys hovering back on defense, ready to push the ball on the break. This worked for the most part, but the big men, especially early on, had butterfingers around the rim, missing wide open layups.
Patty Mills was absolutely insane. I've never seen him play such a good game in his entire life. He kicked off the third quarter with a three, a steal for an easy layup, and then ran down the court on the next possession to assist another three. This immediately put his team back into the game, as he cut the margin from 14 to 6. He seemed to be there for every assist, every loose ball, and every steal. Rightfully, he finished with 26 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals, which just seems like too little for what he did. You've also got to give credit to Joe Ingles, who drove the ball like a man possessed, and the rest of the team, knocking down their threes when they needed to.
Team USA, meanwhile, was struggling to get into the lane in half-court sets. That's not different from what's happened so far in this tournament, but they got fouled a zillion times in the process, shooting a grand total of 32 free throws. This stagnated the game and made it boring to watch, but it basically served as the thing that kept them in the lead when the going got rough. Australia got their fair share of fouls too, but not enough to get Team USA in foul trouble. To be fair, Australia did play well with their bench in the game during certain stretches, but that could have been part of the reason for their loss.
However, Australia's real achilles heel tonight turned out to be turnovers. They did a good job of taking care of the ball in the first half, but it was only a matter of time before the slowly widening gap of points led them to get more desperate with their passes and drives, leading to lots of turnovers in the second half and easy points for Team USA. Deron Williams did his part by grabbing three 3 point plays in the third, and Kobe Bryant went totally off in the fourth, destroying the Australian defense.
The Australian rebounding was also really poor at times. When a bigger lineup was in, they were about even with Team USA in terms of ability, but when they had a small lineup, they'd really struggle with the boards on the defensive end. Kevin Love was especially effective at beating them in this area, grabbing 8 offensive rebounds and helping keep Team USA's lead.
Kevin Durant had an excellent game for Team USA as well, pretty much powering them through the early going with two quick threes, and burying another early in the second quarter. The rest of the Thunder trio were okay, with Westbrook getting 6 points (4 at the line), and James Harden hitting an alley-oop and a three after the result had been decided.
With the win, Team USA moves on to the Semi-Finals to take on Argentina in a re-match of the 2004 Argentine upset. Australia goes home, and will next be in action for the 2013 FIBA Oceania Championship next summer (which basically means they'll be playing New Zealand again).
What did you think of today's game? Vote in the poll, post a comment!