(Photo credit: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Question: When is a win by 31 points NOT impressive? One answer can be found in today's USA Men's Basketball victory over China. USA's defensive pressure won the day for the Redeem Team, but as with the exhibition against Australia, there are trouble signs afoot for this club. USA shot an overall 54 percent for the game, but only 29 percent from beyond the closer 3 point arc, starting out 1 for 12. They also had trouble defending the three, giving the feisty Chinese hope early in the game, before reality, superior talent and fatigue set in.
The USA ballers were able to exploit China's weakness in the backcourt, creating numerous transition and fast break opportunities. The men scored 24 points off the fast break to China's four, and had 12 points off of turnovers, as opposed to China's two. Whether they will be able to do the same, for example, with the talented Spanish guards (Jose Calderon, Juan Carlos Navarro, Rudy Fernandez) will be fascinating indeed.
Given the poor outside shooting, especially in the first half, it's interesting that Coach K couldn't find a way to get Michael Redd off the bench until the second half. Given that starting point guard Jason Kidd doesn't even shoot anymore, if Team USA is not scoring in transition, I'm not sure a half court, 4 on 5 offensive strategy is going to work against better international competition, unless he can get the ball moving around to someone who can hit an open look. Teams will zone USA to death, daring them to hit an outside shot.
The USA'ers are also fought urges to showboat and entertain the crowd, which resulted in a number of unnecessary turnovers. The athleticism of this squad is undeniable, and to watch LeBron James in the open court is a thing of beauty, but against good TEAMS, making the right play instead of the spectacular one is going to be crucial.
Finally, how is Dwight Howard going to be able to play in the second half if he can't make free throws? Already undersized and undermanned in the front court, all another team will do in a tight contest is foul Superman, knowing there's kryptonite waiting for him at the charity stripe. Someone call Rick Barry or a hypnotist quick, because Germany, for example, has four seven footers (one with Olympic rings carved into his noggin) just waiting to exploit that weakness.
With Argentina's loss to Lithuania today, this competition is shaping up to be unpredictable. There's simply too much international talent around to take anything for granted.