Raptors in Rio: USA 94 – Serbia 91


Our “Raptors in Rio” series continues, with Lowry and DeRozan helping the Americans squeak by feisty Serbia.

Again, the USA narrowly pulled out a victory, this time over Serbia. Kyrie Irving was the leading scorer for the United States, chipping 15 points and 5 assists. For Serbia, Denver Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic led all scorers with 25 points on 73% shooting.

Team USA opened up this game playing some of their best basketball at Rio. Punctuated by drive and kicks, the US racked up easy look after easy look, which led to them scoring 27 points on 50% shooting. The story of this quarter, however, was the eight turnovers by Serbia. The Americans had their hands in practically every passing lane and forcing turnover after turnover sparked their fast break offense, where they thrive. From this point onwards, containing the fast break became one of the Serbians’ priorities. Inherently, fast breaks are free-flowing periods of offense and it is one part of the game where the United States’ athleticism shines. Following the first quarter, this ball movement infused offensive attack was gone, and the US returned to the stagnant offensive style that nearly cost them against Australia.

DeMarcus Cousins did a much better job of avoiding picking up early fouls, but his inside presence, scoring and on the glass, was negated by the Serbian bigs. In particular, Miroslav Raduljica’s physical play bothered the US bigs. The Serbian centre would often use his size to jostle DeMarcus and DeAndre. DeAndre’s frustration was apparent, leading to him picking up early fouls and a technical for yelling at a referee. The US, despite causing an early turnover disparity, nullified its benefits by picking up two technicals and an unsportsmanlike foul.

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Beyond the first quarter, the Serbians did a much better job of protecting the ball, netting only eight more turnovers over the remainder of the game. The resurgence of their offense was led by point guard Milos Teodosic. Team USA’s defensive often turned to hedging and double teaming the ball handler in the pick and roll. Teodosic expertly weaved passes through the legs of Team USA for easy finishes at the rim. None, however, displayed the offensive versatility like Nikola Jokic. He had finishes in the paint, the post, and even stepped out to the perimeter to hit a pair of threes. Jokic’s passing ability was on full display, as he added three assists. The team as a whole, displayed passing proficiency, always working to swing the ball to the open man.

Raptors players have an impact

Lowry, in his limited minutes, helped steady the US’ defense. He grabbed two steals in his 10 minutes of play and displayed his usual tenacity while matched up with the Serbian guards. On offense, Kyle did his best to create off the drive and kick, but netted himself only one assist. 

DeMar, on the other hand, played a much bigger role than he had in prior games. With the continuation of Klay Thompson’s poor shooting, Coach K decided to mix up his wing rotation. In late third and early fourth quarter minutes usually reserved for Thompson, he inserted DeMar into the lineup. DeRozan was effective in his limited playing time, scoring 11 points on 60% shooting. On the defensive end, DeMar played his match up well. As the tournament progresses, it is interesting to watch Team USA’s coaching staff begin to put more faith in the Raptors guards, with Lowry played big minutes against the Venezuelans and now DeMar against the Serbians.
The United States plays its final match of group play on Sunday against France.