Game Recap: USA 98 – AUS 88


Far from their usual dominance, the USA squad squeaked out a ten-point victory over Australia.

Carmelo Anthony led the way for the United States with 31 points on 57% shooting and an incredibly clutch fourth quarter performance. Patty Mills was Australia’s leading scorer with 30 points while Matthew Dellavedova chipped in 11 points and 11 assists.

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Tonight was a clear indication of the advantage other countries have over the United States: chemistry. The Australians were very familiar with both their offensive and defensive systems and it showed. This level of familiarity allowed the Boomers to run more complex offensive sets, with actions occurring aside from the main action, be that pick and roll or a pin down screen. These sets, which were rife with ball movement, are what exposed the United States defensive issues. Throughout the game, the Americans blew switch after switch, allowing easy cuts to the basket or giving the Australians enough room to put up a three ball. Dellavedova, Bogut, and Mills all were adept at exploiting these defensive lapses. Two players’ poor defensive play stuck out to me, Kyrie Irving and DeMarcus Cousins. Kyrie constantly allowed middle penetration and angled his body as to direct his man into a defender at the rim. The only problem? The defender wasn’t there. This poor communication continued as Kyrie’s teammates allowed to him to slam into screen after screen without warning. Cousins’ defensive issues were mainly pick and roll related. When his man would screen, Cousins would sag off. As the US was running a switch-heavy defense this allowed the ball handler his choice of an open three or open lane to drive in.

Offensively, the US was not much better. Throughout much of the game their offense was stagnant and predictable, allowing the Australians to effectively contain drives and contest shots. Often times, two or three players would participate in a set play, while the other two just stood around. If this initial action was covered by the Australians, Team USA would immediately launch into an isolation play. This isolation-heavy offense usually works out for the US, but Kevin Durant shot 4/16 from the field and early fouls on Cousins left them without a dominant presence inside.

Kyle Lowry was great in his playing time. A welcome step up from Irving defensively, Lowry continued his streak of pestering his match-up. On the offensive end, Lowry was effective off the drive and kick, netting him 4 assists. However, even he fell victim to some poor, albeit late shot clock, shot taking which caused him to be blocked three times. DeMar only played three minutes, but chipped in a steal.

Klay Thompson’s poor shooting continued, he is now shooting 3/20 (15%) through this Olympics. Early fouls again sidelined Cousins as he came out two and a half minutes into the first quarter. However, the age old strategy of having more talent prevailed in the fourth quarter. Carmelo Anthony poured in 12 points down the stretch on a scorching hot 83% shooting. In addition, the USA pulled down 21 offensive boards, which certainly helped their cause.

Looking ahead, the Americans will have to work on defensive communication. Leaning on isolation play can be risky, as we saw from Durant’s poor shooting night. The defensive and athletic talent means this roster should be completely shutting teams down night in and night out. Up next, the USA is facing Serbia on Friday. Serbia, another team with strong chemistry, should be ample practice for the United States’ defense.