Puerto Rico was behind by only 5 points at the half, and had tangoed with the lead throughout the first and second. But their brush with greatness was short lived, as a massive collapse in the third quickly put the game out of reach.
How was the Puerto Rican team able to get so close? We tried to do too much trapping," said Coach K in the post game press conference. "And they're just too good. So they spread us out with end of clock shots and offensive rebounds." Later in the conference, Coach K admitted that his strategy wasn't entirely focused on winning during that time. "We helped them with the way we were subbing, because we were trying different combos and things like that."
Steph Curry was one of the biggest performers of the game, and adjusted to his new role at shooting guard extremely well. His ability to shoot off of screens seems to be deadlier than ever, and a really slick pass in transition reminded us all that his PG skills aren't gone. He talked about team USA's struggles during the first half after the game, saying that "Defensively trying to adjust to their point guard, coming off of screen and rolls", and "the way they move the ball" all factored into the closeness of the contest. Still, given the team's second half performance, neither Curry nor Coach K seemed worried about what happened.
Looking at it from Puerto Rico's perspective, it's a bit easier to see why they were so successful. The combination of Arroyo and Barea, whom are two of the quickest and most creative guards in the world, was really hard to contain. Team USA has relied on giving other teams fits with relentless backcourt pressure, but that's one of the only backcourts that's capable of avoiding that pressure entirely. They also had a ton of success on the boards, despite playing a good chunk of their time with Balkman at center. If you can believe it, Puerto Rico led both categories at the half. This aspect is a bit harder to explain, since there's so many factors that go into rebounding. Still, you could see that Puerto Rico committed to having a man trailing the cutter on any pick and roll, and that Team USA tended to lose focus when it came to boxing out.
Puerto Rico's dream couldn't last forever, though. The run was already a bit unbelievable, with a few threes coming from way behind the line. But you could tell that Barea, Arroyo, and Sanchez were definitely getting weary by the time the third rolled around. Puerto Rico didn't really have a backup point guard capable of avoiding Team USA's pressure, and they didn't have any player they could throw it to for easy points. Both of those sentences are fancy ways of saying that the talent just wasn't there, but I try my best.
Still, I don't want to take anything away from Puerto Rico. This game wasn't completely unwinnable. I mean, if Klay Thompson and Steph Curry didn't bang in threes as the buzzer sounded at the end of the second and third quarters, it would have been a 14 point game. That's nothing to sneeze at. Curry and Thompson were ultimately Team USA's saving grace, though. They once again worked together really well in the third quarter, managing to tear up the foolish zone defense that the Puerto Ricans tried to wraught.
After tonight, Team USA will be heading to Canary Islands (specifically Gran Canaria) to play Slovenia in their last exhibition. After that, it's another couple final days of preparation before starting group play in Spain. The roster still hasn't been set, and it was one of the hottest topics post-game. Coach K seemed pretty certain that he was going to narrow the roster down to 12 by tomorrow morning, due to the difficulty of having anyone go all the way to the Canary Islands and not play. The starting point guard situation also figures to be one of the biggest meetings on the plane, and we still have no word on who the man will be.
- "At least 5, and maybe 6" -Coach K on how many bigs will be present on the final roster of 12.
- Kyle Korver has the team's lowest cumulative minute total, with 7. Next are Hayward with 14, Drummond with 16, Parsons with 17, Plumlee with 24, Lillard with 26, Cousins with 28, and Rose with 37. Rose and Cousins were injured, so I'd say that four of the earlier 6 are going to be on the chopping block.
- Rudy Gay is so effective at exploiting mismatches, especially in the post.
- "Exposing myself to the international game is good for my game going into next season." -Steph Curry
- As evidenced by Renaldo Balkman and Kenneth Faried, dreadlocks are the universal style for energy-intensive basketball players. Seeing all that hair go head to head was like watching two Super Saiyans.
- The MSG announcer once accidentally called Carlos Arroyo Kyle Korver. olol
- Why does Team USA always seem to struggle when the other team gives them open threes? We should start cheering for harder defense.
- With Kerr set to do a bunch of off-ball and motion-type stuff for Curry, this trial run for him at Team USA has to get GSW fans excited.
- My final roster prediction: Korver, Hayward, Parsons, and Lillard are cut. Bigs are always kept around for emergencies, it seems.
- Also, I wanted to apologize for not having the latest Puerto Rico roster in the preview for this game. It was a dumb error and shouldn't (AOL Keyword: shouldn't) happen again.
Have any predictions on the final roster? Let us know who you think makes the team in the comments!