Notes: USA Sneaks by Brazil

by Jeremy Bauman/@JBauman13

On my first day of classes at Indiana University to start my senior year, I ended the day at 12:15, got some lunch and came back for an afternoon special of USA basketball against Brazil. I love college, and here are my thoughts on the matchup that took place today.

– In an up and down, fastbreaking first quarter both teams got out to a quick start but Brazil couldn’t miss. They got out on the break, worked the ball into Tiago Splitter (13 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists) in the post and also used him in the pick-and-roll consistently. Splitter made smart decisions, had a few nice passes out of double teams and made some nifty moves in the paint. Leandro Barbosa (14 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists) came alive with a few minutes to go in the first and was unconscious from deep, swishing three long range bombs from the left side (although he went cold after this point). The United States had a ton of trouble guarding Brazil, who shot about 75% in the first quarter, had 16 points in the paint and went on an 8-0 run to finish the quarter up 28-22.

Tiago Splitter. Splitter and Barbosa might be the two players whom people are most familiar with on Brazil, but the main reason Brazil was clicking on all cylinders in the first half was because of their steady lead guard Marcelo Huertas (8 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds). Even though he was guarded by more athletic players like Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Chauncey Billups, Huertas ran the Brazilian pick and roll offense to near perfection. His highlight of the half was when he had a great behind-the-back bounce pass to Splitter for an easy dunk with about 30 seconds left.

– Kevin Durant (27 points, 10 boards), Chauncey Billups (15 points and 3 assists) and Derrick Rose (11 points, 5 boards, 2 assists, 4 steals) were the guys who seemed in rhythm early on offense. Durant buried a few triples, had an and-1 and scored seemingly every time he touched the ball while Billups found easy opportunities around the rim off the pick-and-roll or by moving off the ball and Rose created his own offense from the defensive end and by attacking the rim relentlessly.

– Twice in the first half the USA gave away points because they failed to outlet the ball to one of their own teammates. First Andre Igoudala threw the ball across the middle of the floor to an open Brazilian player for an easy layup and then Lamar Odom tossed the ball from under the basket to near half court. Brazil proceeded to hit a three.

– USA defense was much better nearly in the 3rd quarter as Coach K decided that the best option would be to switch on all ball screens because the Team USA length and athleticism helped to disrupt the Brazilians on the perimeter. In the fourth quarter there were a couple of times where the USA bailed itself out with great defensive rotations after over-committing to guarding the pick and roll and got the job done.

– Kevin Durant, Chauncey Billups and Derrick Rose kept on chugging in the third quarter for Team USA. Durant kept his hot hand going from deep and cut to the basket for an easy score, Billups was effective penetrating whenever he felt like it and took the ball strongly to the hole. Rose hit an amazing floater over Splitter to give the USA their first lead in a while at 52-50.

– Both Tiago Splitter and Marcelo Huertas picked up their fourth fouls in the third quarter but Brazil kept themselves in the game by hitting outside shots, most of which were hit by forward Marcus Vinicius (16 points, 4-5 from deep). The USA had a chance to take a commanding lead going into the fourth quarter but Brazil kept it managable at 61-59 going into the fourth.

– Lamar Odom rebounded well today on the defensive end but he couldn’t get it going on the offensive end at all. He even missed a wide open layup that would have given the USA a 6 point lead with about 1:30 remaining.

– This was a good test for Team USA. While they are obviously relying on their ability to get out on the fastbreak with their speed for the most part, this was a chance for them to see what aspects of their halfcourt offense need work (nearly everything). These talented players haven’t been playing together for that long and they don’t have the chemistry that they would have if they were playing together on a more consistent basis but if they just pass the ball around and play with a few seconds more of patience it could help drastically in future contests.

– I didn’t like Chauncey Billups shot selection in the second half. It wasn’t that he pulled up for three too many times but rather because of the time and score that he launched the shots under. On the US final possession up two with a difference of about 10 seconds between the shot and game clock (you never really know for sure because the clock is NEVER up) he launched a three from the top of the key instead of trying to get into the lane where he was at his best today. Team USA was very fortunate to walk away with a big victory after Marcelo Huertas missed a layup but was fouled, missed the first free throw, missed the second on purpose, got his own rebound, gave the ball to Barbosa under the rim and… he missed a layup that could have tied the game. A win is a win but if USA wants to win this thing they will have to keep improving. For now they go out on top 70-68 and improve to a 3-0 record and are in dominant position to close out Pool B on top.

– Going forward the USA will have to do a much better job of helping and recovering on perimeter players. If they end up playing Greece (very possible Quarterfinal matchup) they will be surprised at how willing the Greeks are to pull the trigger from deep without hesitating.