First and foremost,
And we're off. No more tune up games, now the basketball actually counts. Team USA went into this game a slight -36.5 favorite against New Zealand and I know they ultimately won by 27, but it took a while for this game really was broken open. In fact, the start Team USA got off to was some of the most horrendous basketball you could ever possibly see. I believe it was 4 TOs on their first 5 possessions and a quick 4-14 hole after the first 5 or 6 minutes. Team USA couldn't score in the halfcourt to save their lives. If it wasn't FTs or a transition bucket it was a TO. Just brutal stuff to start.
Heading into this tournament if there's one thing we knew about this roster was that it had legit depth. That's not all that surprising since the NBA is a collection of the best players in the world, but what it did give was a sense of comfort that if in the real thing, the starters have a dud, there's talent behind them that can come in and take over.
Which is exactly what happened.
While the tune up games were all about Anthony Edwards destroying everything in his path, today's opener was about the second unit. For starters, Paolo Banchero was a monster. Playing the five, something I think we now have to pencil down to remember once the NBA season starts, Banchero was fairly unstoppable.
He gave you a little bit of everything. Efficienct scoring, rebounds in his minutes and rim protection. You expect JJJ to be the one with 4 blocks in a game and here comes Banchero at 6'10 blocking everything. Then once he starts hitting his three off the dribble, it's a wrap for you
Then you had Austin Reaves who finished a +19 in his 22 minutes
where you're getting efficient scoring and playmaking. A classic example of some good old fashion versatility. Welcome to a roster that has multiple offensive creators. Pretty hard to stop in my humble opinion when you can have a wide variety of options to run your offense through. Everyone gives a different look. Brunson is patient and elite at getting into the paint to the point where you know you can either get a floater or he'll spin and keep the ball moving. Haliburton gives you the flash. Just a sick amount of basketball IQ + court vision
He's another guy that came off the bench, was a +13 with his 10/4/3 on 4-5 (2-2) shooting. You could make the case he should be starting at this point with how good he's looked in both the tune up games and then today. His playstyle is a perfect fit.
Add in Josh Hart who was a +28 and Cam Johnson who was a +10, Team USA's depth is what carried them today, and that's fine by me. You still had good showings from Edwards and JJJ
I will say it was very on brand for JJJ to foul out of this game. That guy LOVES comitting fouls. Glad to see that's carried over from the NBA season.
All in all, the bench accounted for 54 of the 99. Pretty good!
If there's one thing I can say with certainty, it's that Team USA's ability to dominate in transition is going to make them so tough to beat. They crushed New Zealand in fastbreak points 22-6 and had 23 points off TOs. If you let this group get out and run, you don't have a shot. You basically have to hope to contain them on the break while also praying they don't ever figure things out in the halfcourt. That's what things were for the first 5 minutes of this game, but once Team USA settled down and the second unit showed how to do it, they became a force.
So even though things may have been a little ugly and a little rocky to start, at the end of the day Team USA did what we expect them to do in a game like this. Dominate. Blow the opponent out. Enough of this idea that the rest of the world is catching up, Team USA is about blowing out international competition. So far, so good.
We now turn the page to Monday morning vs Greence. No Giannis obviously, so I see no reason why this train can't keep on rolling. Especially if the entire roster is going to contribute like this