Yet again, Team USA emerges victorious. After a first half that looked like a real basketball game, Team USA started to pull away in the third quarter and completely blew Slovenia away in the fourth. James Harden and Steph Curry can most easily be identified as the catalysts behind the push. Both of them came off of a horrible first half in which they combined to shoot 0-12. Neither was necessarily getting horrible attempts, but Steph Curry was clearly out of rhythm and James Harden had trouble getting foul calls. The third saw a complete turnaround for both. Harden would finish the quarter with 12 points on 3-5 shooting, 4-5 FT, 2 reb, 2 ast, 1 turnover, and 1 steal. Curry would chip in production as well, finishing the third quarter with 6 points on 2 of 5 shooting, 2-2 FT, 1 rebound, and 1 steal.
After the game, I asked Coach K about James Harden's turnaround specifically.
"It's all on James. ... It seemed in the second quarter, there was a lot of physical activity when you took the ball to the basket. He had that one call where it looked like it was going to be a three point play, but it was called a charge. He had some unfortunate luck. You know, he was making good strong moves. And sometimes, in a game, it doesn't happen for a player. Then a player could put his head down. James did not. He made some amazing plays. I thought some of the loose balls we got too were key plays. And James did that. And after ... I think it was 0-8. He and Steph were 0-12 in the first half and we were up by 7. So we said, 'I don't think that will happen in the second half', and it didn't."
Slovenia's version of their collapse was much simpler. Klemen Prepelic put it thusly: "[In the second half], we destroy our system. We open the court for them, and they're too good in that kind of game."
Still, how did Team USA manage to lead by 7 after two quarters, despite Harden and Curry's struggles? Well, one answer is offensive rebounding. In the first 7 minutes of the game, Team USA managed to grab a whopping 12 offensive rebounds. Slovenia was extremely active in defending shots at the time, and Team USA just couldn't seem to convert from point blank range. But the rebounds were enough of a factor that Team USA would finish the first quarter with 30 field goal attempts to Slovenia's 14. Team USA also managed to register only one turnover during the quarter, while Slovenia committed 6.
The second quarter was a bit different. Team USA was a bit more efficient from the floor, using their size and the athleticism to Rudy Gay to grab a few buckets. They were struggling a bit more though, turning the ball over 6 times themselves. Meanwhile, Slovenia would continue to shoot ridiculously efficiently from the floor. In particular, the trio of Lorbek and the Dragic brothers powered the team's offense. Slovenia was able to find space relatively well, but a 1-7 performance from three and a 3-8 performance from the free throw line doomed them to a 7 point deficit at the half.
The second half was just an exhibition game. Turnover after turnover would disrupt Slovenia's offense, and smaller lineups only helped to increase the pace of the game. Also, the mobility of Team USA's bigs allowed for a couple key demoralizing run outs, destroying Slovenia's confidence. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, Slovenia's coach (Jure Zdovc) was rolling out his younger players in the post. It wasn't long before the game got wildly out of control, turning the fourth quarter into a dunking exhibition.
- At one point, Slovenia was shooting 49% from the floor, yet they were down by 20. Just an odd thing.
- Team USA's redonkulas fourth quarter shot chart:
- Coach K crossmatched Klay Thompson onto Goran Dragic for a good portion of the game. It was pretty effective. Team USA also didn't really suffer from having a undersized defender at SG, since Zoran Dragic isn't much of a post player.
- Slovenia opened the half without either of their centers, Omic or Zupan, on the floor. Anthony Davis opened the half with two jumpers, that he missed. It was pretty silly.
- Klemen Prepelic was a nice surprise for Slovenia, nailing a couple of open shots. He hadn't been much of a factor up to this point.
- Jure Zdovc was asked about Team USA's future opponents after the game. He said that it would get much more interesting from here, because Lithuania has very tall and powerful players.
Next Game: Versus Lithuania, Thursday, September 11th, 2 PM Central Daylight Time
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