How do you recap a game like this? By the time we reached halftime, the game was pretty much an open and shut case. Despite consistent effort by Serbia throughout, the second half was nothing more than an extended Team USA victory parade.
It's something that I've come to expect after watching this incarnations of Team USA romp through their competition over the past 5 weeks. The closest any team has come to beating the USA is Turkey, and Turkey managed to do it through quirky strategy and a bunch of European role players. This Serbian team, on the other hand, couldn't sustain the facade of competitive basketball for much more than a quarter. Despite dragging Team USA into the bonus and showcasing some impressive ball movement over the course of an early 15-7 lead, Serbia proceeded to finish the quarter on a 21-6 drought.
The reasoning is basically the same as any other opponent. Team USA started to get the turnovers they needed,and Serbia's offense got predictable. They didn't take a single shot outside of the paint until the quarter was more than halfway done. Even the shots Serbia managed to get in the paint weren't as good as they were early on, because they couldn't keep up the rapid ball movement. Eventually, Serbia's offense stalled out completely, as they couldn't get Bogdanovic or Markovic to work out of the pick and rolls very well. Meanwheil, none of Serbia's bigs could post up as well as they could against weaker opponents. Defensively, Serbia let the pace of the game increase, which is pretty much a disaster against the more athletic Team USA.
After the game, coach Djordjevic talked about why he didn't try different types of tactics against Serbia. "Our trademark was individual defense", he said. "Everybody in the world is playing zone against USA team. It is not in my personality, it is not in the personality of the guys who came to this tournament." The coach didn't waste much time on tactics, however. The majority of the press conference was a recognition of his team's achievements, a vow to come back and compete in 2016 with a more experienced squad, a statement that this type of a game was very beneficial to Serbia, and a admission that Team USA "kicked our butt tonight."
Coach K's press conference was as you'd expect it. As always, he began with a long acknowledgement of his opponents and the hard work they put in. I've never seen him or a player speak badly about an opponent in a press conference, which definitely can't be said for all of the teams present. Tactically, Coach K chalked up the win to some key plays by DeMarcus Cousins in the first quarter, stopping the back court pressure, as well as inventing new ways to score off of defense and offensive rebounding. His best quote? "Whenever you win again, it's the sweetest one, because no one guarantees you the sweets."
All in all, it was an absolutely dominant tournament for Team USA. Aside from a couple of poor shooting performances from guards, this team has been virtually flawless. I've watched them crush opponent after opponent, and come nowhere close to being touched in the final result. For the average American sports fan, this is the status quo. Team USA beats all others, and the rest of the world still has a long way to catch up.
But before all that talk begins, let me say my piece. Even though this team is still, far and away, the most talented in the world, this gold medal didn't happen by accident. It happened through the assembly of possibly the greatest coaching staff we'll ever see. At the helm, you have Coach K. It might look inappropriate, as he's normally in the college ranks. But one quick look at international basketball tells you that his experience there prepares him better for this type of game. He's used to dealing with tight schedules, single-elimination formats, beating bad opponents consistently, and organizing players on a team that might be completely different from year to year. Then, as assistants, you've got some of the greatest minds in Jim Boeheim, Tom Thibodeau, and Monty Williams. There's no comparably star-studded staff....anywhere.
Then, you've got the players. It's true that Team USA might not be as talented as they have been or could be. But because of that, you're able to snag players that aren't necessarily the #1 scoring option on their teams. Guys like Kenneth Faried and Klay Thompson both of whom have stepped up and performed very specific roles. Then, you've got guys like Anthony Davis. Steph Curry, and Rudy Gay, who have been able to step back from their roles in the NBA and perform completely different ones on Team USA. And you've even got guys like Irving and Harden, who are as capable of leading a team in scoring as almost anybody in the world.
So, if I can make my case here, Team USA hasn't beaten the rest of the world because they're that much more talented than them. They've beaten them because they've got one of the best management systems in the world that knows how to pick and utilize players.
When will the rest of the world catch up? Well, they're closer than you think. Obviously, a perfect world would have landed Spain next to this version of Team USA in the Final. We all know that Spain has the talent to beat the US on a good day, though their age definitely caught up to them in this tournament. But there are other teams that were a step away from beating the US as well. Had France been able to secure the services of Tony Parker and Joakim Noah, they certainly would have had the size and passing ability necessary to compete. It's a real shame that they both dropped out, because France looked really strong back in 2013. Moreover, Lithuania suffered an injury to a key point guard, Mantas Kalnietis, who would have made Lithuania look completely different if he was playing 30 minutes a game. Even teams like Serbia, Brazil, Croatia, and Argentina had some talent there, but are just a star away from being able to make a real splash.
I know that Team USA lost Kevin Durant, Paul George, Blake Griffin, LeBron James, and whomever else you might want to add to that list. And I admit that they would make this team even scarier. But it's only a matter of time before a foreign team is able to mount that perfect storm....
For tonight, though, that clock might as well be stopped. Team USA has proven their dominance over the world for the fourth straight time, and won't have to prove themselves again until the Rio Olympics in 2016. The United States of America is still the mecca of basketball, and they'll do all they can to continue to garner the rest of the world's respect. There might not be parties in the streets, but there will be basketballs bouncing. And that's all we can ask.
Next Game: 2016. See you then!
What did you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!