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 Plenty of positives for Team USA heading into FIBA World Championship

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Magic Man13
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PostSubject: Plenty of positives for Team USA heading into FIBA World Championship   Sat Aug 28, 2010 8:53 am

There might not be much to take away from Team USA’s 87-59 win over Greece in the final tuneup game before the start of the FIBA World Championship in Turkey on Saturday. After all, the Greeks kept some of their better players on the bench, while the U.S. tried to get all 12 of its players involved. But, the fact remains, Team USA is 4-0 in exhibition play and managed wins over the two top teams in the upcoming tournament—Spain and Greece—in hostile arenas.

No, it’s not the 2008 Olympic team. But it’s still a very talented group of players that will enter the World Championship as the favorite.

“I feel like we’ve got the best players in the world,” point guard Chauncey Billups(notes) said recently. “Even though the Kobes, LeBrons, Melos are not here, I still feel like we’ve got the best talent in the world. We should still expect to be successful.”

The win over Spain often had the feel of a YMCA pickup game, though a little less intense, and as analyst Fran Fraschilla said, “I wouldn’t get too excited yet if I was a USA Basketball fan.” Still, there were some pearls of positivity—and an important lesson in regards to long-range shooting—from the final exhibition game that should reinforce Team USA’s hopes in this tournament.

— It has its stars. There’s little doubt that, as the World Championship opens, Team USA will revolve around forward Kevin Durant(notes) and point guard Derrick Rose(notes). Coach Mike Krzyzewski was concerned early on in the exhibition slate when Durant seemed to be too eager to pass, rather than simply scoring himself. That has changed. Durant had 25 points in Team USA’s win over Spain, and 15 points in the win over Greece. Rose, meanwhile, has clearly taken the reins since being named the starter at point guard. He was the player of the game in the Greece win (13 points on 6-for-7 shooting).

— It will pressure nonstop. Teams with quality ballhandlers will give the U.S. trouble because the defense is always looking to clamp down on opposing guards to create turnovers. That has been a staple of the American offense, and against most teams (Spain and Greece are among the exceptions) in the World Championship, the sheer athleticism of the U.S. perimeter players will be overwhelming. Greece wasn’t playing its best, and committed 24 turnovers. As long as Team USA is forcing turnovers, they’ll win.

— Then there’s the shooting. This is a bit of a broken record for American teams in international tournaments, but opponents will pack into zone defenses to cut down on the U.S.’s team speed advantage. That will force Team USA to make 3-pointers, which is just not a strength of the team. They were just 7-for-28 against Greece, and shot a measly 31.3 percent for the exhibition schedule. The good news, though, is that if Team USA cuts back on its 3-point tries and leaves the shooting to its most capable players, that percentage should bump up considerably.
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