Okay, so Team USA won another blowout, yadda yadda. Here's what was different about tonight: It was an elimination game. So Team USA was noticeably more locked in. You could just tell the difference in body language they have here versus when they were in Bilbao. There was no messing around during warmups, and there were very few errors or errant shots during the game.
Mexico was actually able to play a rather good game, considering the circumstances. They were hopelessly undersized, and had to account for it by going to a zone defense and digging deep into their bench. It didn't help them out much, though. Team USA actually did miss quite a few shots in the paint, but they made up for it with excellent shooting from outside. Moreover, Team USA was able to score 12 points off live ball turnovers and 11 second chance points.
Before the game, it was pretty well known that Team USA struggled to defend against bigs who stretched the floor. Hector Hernandez fit that bill as much as anybody, but he was completely held off of the scoreboard tonight. Coach K praised Gay and Faried for their ability to do so in the post game presser. Arguably the only consistently effective player on the Mexican roster in this game was Gustavo Ayon. He was able to isolate and create against Anthony Davis (of all people!), as well as score on a few jumpers and putbacks.
Strategically, though, I feel that Mexico's approach was flawed. On offense, they took far too many shots from mid-range. It sounds simplistic, but the mid-range shot is one of the least efficient in the game, and the volume of shots taken there can be a factor. Furthermore, in group play, Mexico averaged 7 mid-range shots a game, and never took more than 8. Against Team USA, they took 20 shots from that area.
If there was one point in the game where the momentum truly swung in Team USA's favor, it was definitely the third quarter. Mexico had just come off a quarter where they totally relied upon Gustavo Ayon to score, and were really struggling to convert near the rim. Team USA took full advantage, with both Steph Curry and DeMarcus Cousins shooting a perfect 4 of 4 from the floor. Curry was able to spot up from wherever he wanted, while Cousins used his weight to get close to the rim and score over smaller men.
At the end of the day, it was another easy win for Team USA. But the competition only gets harder from here....
- After the game, Coach K talked about how he responded to foreign teams trying to foul his players in transition. He said that he tries to get players to pass ahead or put the ball down right away.
- What is Coach K proudest of so far? " No matter what we're doing offensively, the defense hasn't suffered."
- Klay Thompson was pretty effective at exploiting mismatches with smaller players when he got them. No doubt his former training under the iso-heavy Mark Jackson offense helped him there.
- I wouldn't read anything into Anthony Davis' 2 of 9 stat line.
- Derrick Rose, on the other hand....shot 0 of 5 tonight. Looked way off of his rhythm, despite being as active as usual in the passing and ballhandling game.
- "Our defense is still the thing that's keeping us going," said Curry after the game. "Putting pressure on our opponents, restoring the tempo."
Next Game: Versus the Dominican Republic or Slovenia, Tuesday, September 9th, Time TBD