|2014 FIBA World Championship Group C|
|September 3rd, 2014|
|Bizkaia Arena, Bilbao, Basque Autonomous Province, Spain|
|2:30 PM Central Daylight Time|
|TV: ESPN3.com in the USA, Livebasketball.tv Internationally|
|Injury Report: All players are expected to be ready.|
|Previous Matchups: Aug 20 (W 105-62)|
|Edgar Sosa||PG||Kyrie Irving|
|James Feldeine||SG||Stephen Curry|
|Francisco Garcia||SF||James Harden|
|Eluis Baez||PF||Kenneth Faried|
|Eloy Vargas||C||Anthony Davis|
As we enter the fourth day of basketball, the hierarchy of teams is beginning to take hold. With 3 victories, Team USA stands head and shoulders above all others in Group C. They've virtually guaranteed advancement, and you wouldn't blame Team USA for looking ahead at this point.
But Coach K is determined to take this thing opponent by opponent. And up next for Team USA is a clash with the Dominican Republic, whom the US first got familiar with at an exhibition game in New York. Team USA won that game easily, 105-62. The kicker here is that the Dominican Republic was probably a stronger team back then. Karl Towns, a prospect for Kentucky this year, bowed out of Dominican national team duties after the game in New York in order to study. He wasn't a key cog or anything, but he's easily the best 7 footer the team could ask for.
The only other semblance of a center on this roster is Eloy Vargas, a former Kentucky Wildcat. He's not especially skilled, but he can fill space. Vargas was essential in a victory over the undersized Finnish team, grabbing 18 points and 13 rebounds. The only other traditional big man on the team is Jack Michael Martinez, one my my favorite players in the tournament. He's constantly involved in setting offensive screens and boxing out for rebounds, but asks for the ball a lot more seldomly in the past. Still, he has a really unique and long fadeaway jumper that makes it look like he's shooting on a moving walkway. Martinez or Vargas is going to have to establish an inside game if the Dominican Republic is to win, and in my eyes that's a near impossibility. Vargas doesn't have anything on Anthony Davis, and Jack Michael Martinez has posted consistently low shooting numbers against Team USA in the past.
Nevertheless, Team USA will need to rely on their big men to pull out easy victory for them tonight. The Dominicans will leave the 6'6" Eluis Baez at power forward for the majority of the game, and may even spend time with four guards on the floor. This will open up opportunities for Faried and Davis, who have continually used their size, length, and mobility to troll this entire tournament. Both should be able to feast on basic pick and rolls, in the fast break, and even in limited post up situations.
I will say that the Dominicans do have one potential saving grace. Francisco Garcia is a player who can score from basically any point of the floor if you give him space. He's proven that he can score in bunches at the NBA level, and he'll be looked to heavily to create for his team. He's managed to shoot over 45% from the floor against all three of his opponents to far, and he's averaged 21 PPG. Garcia was only 6 of 14 against Team USA in New York, but it's easy to see how a couple more made shots from him would open things up for his teammates.
The teammate who will need to step up the most is James Feldeine, the Dominican's second best scoring option. He's a top-flight Spanish player who could probably be considered the team's defacto point guard. He's done wonders to help the team's normally stagnant ball movement, but he's posted low shooting numbers over the course of this tournament so far. His head-first, attack the rim style served him well against Team USA in New York though, so it's easy to see him having a bit of a turnaround.
When you get right down to it though, it would take a minor miracle for the Dominicans to win this game. As we saw against Turkey, a team that beats the US must have strong post defense and strong ballhandling. The Dominicans have neither. Edgar Sosa, their defacto starter, is more of a scorer than anything. Feldeine and Garcia, the actual primary ballhandlers, are playing out of position. And the backups (Ronald Ramon and Juan Coronado) have never really impressed at the international level. Furthermore, the Dominican Republic has failed to register more turnovers than assists in all three of their games so far.
On Team USA's side of things, there aren't a huge amount of issues to iron out. But one of them is Derrick Rose. He's shot 22% from the floor over the course of the first three games, and has a whopping 2.7 turnovers to only 3.7 assists. The 2.7 steals a game are certainly redeeming, and it's not like he's cost Team USA a game, but it's pretty apparent that he's still not in top form. If there was ever a team to prove yourself against as a PG though, it's the Dominican Republic.
Another player that's been mysteriously struggling is Stephen Curry. He's only shot 33% from the floor so far, and carries the same bad assist to turnover ratio that Derrick Rose does. As a moonlighting Warriors fan I've watched his game a bit more intently, and his problem definitely has to do with playing out of position. Coach Nick identified at least one situation where Curry could have passed instead of shot against Turkey, and it's easy to see how the transition from SG to PG would make him more trigger happy.
Anyway, this should be another comfortable victory for Team USA. The round of 16 can't come soon enough!
Prediction: Team USA 111, Dominican Republic 82.
What do you think about tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!