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Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006 at 9:38 am  |  37 responses

USA 94, Italy 85

News and notes from Team USA’s toughest game yet…

by Lang Whitaker

Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade combined to score 64 points on 77 percent shooting, and the dynamic duo led the US back from a 9 point halftime deficit to a 9 point win over a feisty Italian team. Melo was especially hot, scoring 19 in the third quarter on a variety of difficult jumpers to finish with a game-high 35 points.

Some notes…
• Only six US players scored in the game (Melo, Wade, LeBron, Chris Paul, Elton Brand and Kirk Hinrich). They also combined to shoot 19 of 34 from the free throw line for a dismal 56 percent.

• LeBron James had by far his worst game of the tournament. He was cold in the first quarter and forced a few ill-advised jumpers while letting his man hit two threes, and though Bron played 25 minutes he finished with just 8 points and 3 rebounds.

• Italy’s Marco Belinelli posted perhaps the best individual performance versus the US yet, finishing with 25 points and repeatedly beating defenders to sink open jumpers. Point guard Fabio Di Bella was also solid, putting up 12 points and 5 assists while playing sound defense.

• This was an interesting game from start to finish. The US led after one, 25-19, after finishing the first on a 15-4 run. The US then went ice cold in the second quarter as Italy got hot, and Italy won the quarter 26-11, grabbing a 45-36 lead going into halftime.

• Elton Brand was the US’s best player in the first half. The US tried to attack Italy’s man-to-man defense by isolating various players, and Brand was really the only guy who was able to get his shots to drop.

• With the US putting up that miserable second quarter, Coach K was forced to juggle his lineups. For the majority of the second half he used a five of Chris Paul, Wade, LeBron, Melo and Brand. Joe Johnson had a nice run in the second quarter, playing really tough defense on the ball.

• On the downside, Kirk Hinrich played 15 minutes, scoring 4 and dishing just 1 assist. Shane Battier also played 15 minutes and didn’t score, didn’t grab a rebound and didn’t notch an assist. He did draw two charges, though. And he went to Duke.

• Dwight Howard, who’d played so well thus far, got his legs accidentally knocked out from under him early in the second quarter and landed flat on his back, staying down for a few minutes. He played sparingly after that accident, and it was just after Dwight went down that Italy went on their 26-11 run.

• I loved the spirit Italy played with. They totally weren’t afraid of Team USA, particularly Matteo Soragna, who got Dwyane Wade out of his game in the first half and played with the same sort of dogged resolve as Italian midfielder Gattuso. Andrea Michelori swung an elbow at Chris Paul after the got tangled up going for a loose ball, and LeBron ran over and immediately stood up for his little buddy.

• I had an idea that Italy was in trouble when they started a guy named Gigli.

• All anyone has to do is mention a country competing in the World Basketball Championships, and ESPN’s Fran Frachilla will immediately tell you how many NBA players that country has. Which is a nice party trick and all, but being in the NBA isn’t the be-all and end-all — Italy has no NBA players, and they gave the US their best game yet.

• The worst three-point defense (percentage-wise) of any team in the tournament? Team USA.

• There’s this thing a lot of the teams in FIBA do where they constantly foul to stop a fastbreak. I’d love to see the stats to see if it’s a good strategy or not — is it worth putting your opponent in the penalty to stop them from getting a layup? It does work well as far as stopping the momentum of the game.

• I mentioned the other day how Team USA seems to always give up at least one big shot at the end of a quarter. They didn’t do that this morning, but they did allow Italy to make a 10-3 run to end the second quarter, including five straight points.

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  • Alex

    Lang, dude, I’m loving these recaps every morning. It’s my first week in college so I’m really having no time to get up and watch these or even catch sportcenter and your articles say so much more than the standard AP ones do.
    Keep it real!

  • Paul Johnson

    Melo and D-wade were the truth in the 3rd. Overall USA did not play their best game but played well when they needed to. The free throw shooting was horrible. I don’t think they will have a letdown again. I think ITA has a really good team. This isn’t going to be a cake walk like most people think. What do you say Post up!!!

  • matthew

    Lang,
    I think Dwight might be the x-factor on this team. He doesn’t have to score to impact the game and like you said, when he went down, I though our guys kinda looked around as to say who’s gonna block shots now?? Who’s gonna rebound on the offensive end?? He’s so intimidating down low and tries to block shots so hard it’s like he’s throwing a tennis ball in the crowd. Battier looked about as lost as Bosh and I agree, he plays b/c he went to Duke. If Bowen had went to Duke and Battier had not, I wonder who would have made the team? And one more thing, if Melo isn’t an All-Star, I don’t know who is. Holla.

  • matthew

    And I agree with Alex. Love the recaps b/c the worldwide leader doesn’t provide jack. They must get their stats off the wire and write up a little paragraph. Keep up the good work. It’s much appreciated.

  • Gilbert0

    did bosh get any burn at all? carmelo is going to be SICK this year.

  • Jory

    “Shane Battier also played 15 minutes and didn’t score, didn’t grab a rebound and didn’t notch an assist.”

    Not a Surprise.

    This is where Team USA will miss a clutch, big game defender like Bowen.

  • whit “hot” eboy

    Lang, let’s not let some minor incident between D-Wade and an international nobody make it seem like these foreign countries can get our boys goat’s. I watched this game and every other one the “Redeem” teams games and the laziness of American NBA players is what our biggest deficiency is. They know they are so much better talent-wise than the competition that they lag until they need to turn it up (Like most NBA regular season games). The only problem is, these other teams do not let up. They wan’t to keep USA basketball as an afterthought. And although that is commendable (and has worked for the last few years against us) Coach K (who I personally can’t stand but have much respect for) is just the right man to fix situational problems (as evidenced by today’s 2nd half). Take notes, Larry Brown! By the way, I’m of Italian heritage and although it was cool to see Italy play very well, this is our tournament to lose. Believe that. This ain’t the World Cup! (Azzuri, son) We will take this, and then by 2008, I believe this squad (or some version of this squad) will bring Gold Glory back to the USA!!

  • Danny

    Loved the Gattuso comment!

  • http://nba.com Nadav

    I do belive I called the fact that Team USA would have trouble with the Italians. Props: given.
    I think what Italy missed that most is an athletic big man (see: Bargnani, Andrea). Otherwise they might have been able to pull this one out. Oh well.

  • Allen

    Team USA needs Kobe.

    Trolling.

  • O’Nell

    ^ I said that when they were down by 4 against Puerto Rico. =)

  • Will

    I still don’t think USA can get the gold this time. only half of the team has tuned themselves to the international rules. The game against Brazil, Paul and James dribbled too much. Only Carmelo and Brand are playing certified international ball – spot up shots and quick pass.

    This is just Italy, Puerto Rico and Brazil, already give them so much headache? Let’s talk again when they face Spain or Argentina. I say they can’t even break their zone, opponent got 16 3′s, and won by 5-6 points.

  • Drew

    maaaaaaaan the games are not being show in Canada, so the recaps are life savers Lang

    keep it up!

  • http://www.winstonandthetelescreen.com winston and the telescreen

    Too bad Amares out
    if Dwight went down and then Amare came in
    the Azzuri would have no choice but to all fall down simultaneously and start clutching their ankles while rolling around and crying their eyes out
    it worked in the WC after all
    and any time the game is remotely close youre going to want Kobe in
    his clutch makes MJ look like A-Rod

  • Benedict

    Dang.. I knew we should have kept Bowen. Battier isn’t quite a good choice when battling against good teams like Italy and Spain

  • Mike Matzanke

    “maaaaaaaan the games are not being show in Canada, so the recaps are life savers Lang
    keep it up! ”

    download Sopcast, TvAnts or TUVplayer and watch the games on the internet. They dont show WC in Poland too, they were showing all US preparation games live tho:)

  • Chunk up da duece

    What makes people think bowen is half the player that Battier is? Do u guys remember he was college’s all-everything at Duke, not to mention plays great D. Bowen is 1-dimensional to say the least and shouldn’t fit in with an Olympic team in a million yrs. Imagine Battier with parker, ginobili, and duncan. Now put Bowen on the Memphis Grizzilies and u wouldnt even know who he is.

  • PIMPN

    MELO!!!!!!!

  • http://maknba.blogspot.com karakash

    Lang, for some year or so, here in Europe Marco Belinelli is regarded as the best italian young gun. And that’s with Bargnani in the picture.

    Many european journalists think that on the next years draft Belinelli will be drafted in the 1. round and by guess who?….The EuroRaptors.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Marcel Mutoni

    For what it’s worth, the games are being shown in canada. If you have NBATV (aka Raptors TV), they show a bunch of the games the following day (or on a few hours of tape-delay) and some live.

  • albie1kenobi

    bowen is an AWESOME defensive player, but you need a filler guy like battier to do everything. This is coming from a spurs fan and a duke hater. I mean it make more sense to have a versatile player in international play rather than a one dimensional player.

    speaking of bowen, i hope kobe, ray allen, and bowen all make the team next time. think of all the headline possibilities.

  • TC

    it’s stereotypic to suggest the current usa team players are lazy, turning it up only when pressed. this team, in particular, is composed of hard workers who tend not to hog the ball.

  • Matthew

    Bruce Bowen may be one dimensional, but it seems at these WC’s that Shane Battier is zero dimensional… non-factor. 0pts, 0boards, took two charges. After the game if the only good thing you can say about your performance was you took two charges??? I don’t know. Smells like “dookie” to me. And uh, Chunk, this ain’t college and they ain’t playin against Clemson.

  • http://myspace.com/jrcfl Justin

    As an Orlando resident, this note caused a LOT of concern:

    • Dwight Howard, who’d played so well thus far, got his legs accidentally knocked out from under him early in the second quarter and landed flat on his back, staying down for a few minutes. He played sparingly after that accident, and it was just after Dwight went down that Italy went on their 26-11 run.

  • will lang

    like clockwork, slam magazine takes a shot at duke/battier/k. gregg doyel would be proud. i guess we can all ignore the fact that battier bailed us out the other night with that block and 3 pointer, right?

    so we’re undefeated with k and people are still criticizing?

    here’s a toast to the fantastic jobs turned in by george karl and larry brown….

  • will lang

    not to mention, do you guys realize how old bowen will be in 08?

  • http://nba.com jologs

    battier just had an off night. give the guy a break. bowen is a joke!

  • http://www.myspace.com/bangonthetableproductions alpha

    I been saying this to cats since the Purto Rico game,

    THIS WILL NOT BE A CAKE WALK…

    I wish he still had some speacilist on the team like a natural a shooter (JJ, Morrison), and a midrange guy (Rip or Chancey) to stretch these defences..

    You ever see how they play Team USA?, either zone or lay waaaaaay back on they man and let us commit suicide with the J

    He got talented players OVERALL, but as a team we can’t shoot the ball for S*&t, and all that traping on defence will get us in trouble with a good shooting team, which most internation teams are; leaving them wide open to spot up. Plus these other teams are not scared or intimidated by Team USA at all…so we acauly have to PLAY these games…

    I think we can still PULL OUT a Gold, but it’s gonna be a fight though..

  • Mat

    No rookies will play…Henrich is your guy for the playmaker…also, this game was way too close for the US.

  • Matthew

    Will, I haven’t said the first thing about Coach K or Elton Brand. I think the only reason Battier is on the team is b/c of his close relationship with the coach. Honestly, him being on the team in a moot point because in 08′ when the Olympics come around, you can’t tell me he’ll make the squad over Stoudemire, Rip, Chauncey, Kobe, Michael Redd, or even Greg Oden. Just because you play hard doesn’t mean you deserve a spot on the team. Everyone has bad games, see James, LeBron, but Battier hasn’t had one good game yet. Just thought that roster spot should have gone to somebody else. Mad respect for Elton Brand and even though I’m not a fan of Coach K, he has done well with this group.

  • Chunk up da duece

    I believe battier will make this squad in 08′, because they already are adding another scorer in Kobe (most likely replacing Joe Johnson), and also his relationship with coach K, all-around intangibles, and Defense. I also think Ogden/Stoudemire will replace Jamison/B. Miller. But besides that I think this team will stay the same barring any injuries/weddings/ babies on the way.

  • Bfontes

    Lang, what about the other squads ? Are u watching the other games ? What do u think about the rest of the world ?

    All I know is that Brazil is worst than in the World Cup!

    Holla!

  • albie1kenobi

    as i’m watching the rerun on espn2 right now, all i gotta say is, wow fran is really annoying NBA homer. every minute it’s NBA this NBA that. if the other team has outstanding players, he’d say he can play in the NBA or so. Oh my god he just talked about argentina’s NBA players. again.

    as of lang’s comment on fouling USA to stop fast break, i think it’s a good idea, stopping momentum plays andn especially considering USA’s terrible free throw shooting. brand just missed two in a row to make himself 4 of 9 for the game.

    yes and i realize that bowen is gonna be 37, that’s why i really wish he made this team, much like how other think there’s no way mr battier can make it in 08.

    speaking of battier, i think i subscribe to bill simmon’s view that you need a GREAT ROLE PLAYER on a team like this. like lang noted before, he is super fundamentally sounded. as great as basketball is at providing stats, there’s no stat that reveals picking up missed defensive assignments, tipping rebounds, or setting good screens. (that’s also the reason why i think rockets’ gonna be badass this year, health permitted, of course)

    chris paul is UNREAL. THE pg of the next gen. knock on wood, future hall of famer.

    wow. melo is going crazy. first a lay up with a drive that started from half court, then next trip down he drained his 5th 3pointer. he’s gonna be unstoppable next year.

    this tourney feels like a superstar training camp. i’m really looking forward to next nba season!

  • http://nba.com jologs

    if you really don’t like battier, replace him with grant hill. holla!

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    You know, when Battier was initially named to the roster for the tryouts I thought it was wholly due to his Duke connections, too. But he’s more than proved his ability to play at this level. Yes, he had a bad game yesterday, statistically, so maybe he was having an off night. He still took two charges, more than anyone else on Team USA. I don’t like Duke, and I’m not really a fan of Coach K, but I can’t fault either of them for Battier making the team and playing as much as he has.

    At the same time, I do wish Bowen would have made the team. I think he was hurt in the run-up to the WBC by not really having anyone good enough to guard in most of those exhibitions — all the US players were working hard and stopping their guys, so Bowen didn’t look as special by comparison as he does during NBA games. I’m sure he would’ve done well against Ginobili(!) or maybe even the Spain guards in the next round.

  • albie1kenobi

    stumbled upon the argentina/nigeria game and have some thoughts:

    1) argentina look good. better than USA. they have an awesome offense and they play really super as a team, moving the ball and cutting. their bench was kicking nigeria’s ass.r

    2) nigeria plays like a poor man version of team USA. very athletic, but there’s no team game to speak of. there was a stretch in 2nd quarter when they took at least 5 threes in a row and missing all of them. they need to understand it’s all about attacking the rim. a lot of nigerian player played NCAA ball and the coach was in NBA, so their playing style make sense, but should serve a warning to team USA.

  • Drew

    Teams won’t be able to play zone defenses effectively at the Olympics if Paul Pierce, Kobe and Chauncey make the team.

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