Really, Tunisia didn’t have a shot. The only way they could have won today was if Team USA’s bus got lost on the way to the arena and they missed the game entirely. Well, the bus made it there just fine and the U.S. put a hurting on Tunisia, winning 110-63. Though Team USA wasn’t really tested, we still learned some things and had these five takeaways from the game.
1. Can we just cancel the first quarter?
Another Team USA game, another slow start. Tunisia actually led early! They brought a lot of energy in the opening quarter, taking advantage of a U.S. first unit that looked a little sluggish and a little bit deferential. The U.S. shot some quick ill-advised jumpers, which created long rebounds and some fast break opportunities for Tunisia, which they converted on nicely. These mediocre first quarters are strange to watch, but…
2. We shouldn’t really be too worried about the slow starts.
Here is the thing about this U.S. squad: they’re small. They don’t have a great offensive low-post presence because their main big guy, Tyson Chandler, is out there more for his D. Another big, Kevin Love, plays more like a European 7-footer, perfectly happy to patrol the 3-point line waiting for speedy point guards to kick it to him on their drive. So, yes, the team is small.
[Check out some fun photos of Team USA off the court]
But you know what else they are? Deep and athletic. SUPER athletic. And that combination means that the way they’re going to win games in this tournament is get outplayed a little bit early on while the starting five of their opponent are at their most fresh. You’ll see the other guys run a cohesive offense because—unlike the U.S.—they’ve played so much together. America’s opponents, like Tunisia did today, will get to the lane and take advantage of long rebounds off of missed USA jumpers. But then America brings the pressure and doesn’t let up. Team USA will wear teams into the ground. So while it may not look pretty early each game, other nations can’t match America’s depth and that will be their undoing.
3. Be a little more selective with the 3-point shooting.
In the first quarter, Team USA jacked up threes left and right and not one went down. They shot eight of them in that first frame and some of them in less than ideal spots. However, from the second quarter on, they shot 10/17 from behind the arc, partially because those shots were created off of drive-and-kick opportunities that collapsed the defense and left shooters more wide open. Shooting those types of threes instead of settling for contested ones is a recipe for U.S. success.
4. Jeans are a good look.
If you’re Tunisia’s head coach and you’re about to lead your team to an emphatic defeat at the hands of the greatest basketballing nation in the world, you might as well look good and feel good. That’s what coach Adel Tlatli did when he patrolled the sidelines in some stylish jeans and an untucked polo shirt. Coach K’s team won the game, but coach Tlatli won the fashion game within the game.
5. LeBron is a force of nature.
He didn’t play much, only scored 5 points and the offense didn’t really flow through him in the game, but he reminded us with a thunderous dunk in the first half that he’s 6-feet-8-inches and 250 lbs of pure explosive power. Honestly, he doesn't really need to remind us, but it's fun when he does.