(Photo credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
As in any other type of basketball, if you turn the ball over 25 times, your chance of losing increases. Exponentially. USA's blowout of Greece--thought to be the first true indicator of how good the Redeem Team is--should give the other Olympic hoops participants cause for pause. Like in the NBA championships, defense rules.
No other Olympic team has yet used the international type of game--outside shooting, crisp ball movement and passing--to their advantage. The type of disruptor defense the USA is playing--full court pressure and traps, for example--precludes many teams from exploiting those advantages because only a few teams have the quality backcourt to withstand such an assault. As we move into the medal rounds, USA's talent has overwhelmed any "team" aspect their opponents used circa 2004 to defeat them. This club so far is better prepared, more focused, and has the athleticism to carry out their mission.
It's just getting good, however. The Greece win felt especially wonderful because we were humiliated by them in 2006 at the World Championships; anyone remember the nickname Lebronze James? Competition in the knockout rounds will be better, and I'm still very interested to see how Spain's guards will handle the sort of pressure the USA is handing out. Calderon, Fernandez and Navarro have been decent to very good in their Olympic match ups to date, with Calderon maybe having a slight edge on the other two.
On the USA side, it's nice to see Chris Bosh get a majority of front court minutes over Dwight Howard. While not as physically intimidating as Howard, his presence in the middle has been felt, and he hits his free throws. As we move further along, USA's outside shooting is still a concern, but it seems like this club has thrown down the gauntlet on the defensive end, and in fact are challenging the whole international "team" premise. Will USA's formula of superior athleticism, talent and focused defense defeat the sum of well coordinated, unified play?
We're about to find out.