That one was close. Team USA beat Italy 94-85, a game in which they trailed by 12 early in the third period and looked to be in serious, serious trouble. That's when Coach K decided that it was time to stop operating as if it was little league, something yours truly has been begging for since the beginning. Considering the recent past of USA basketball, this was refreshing to see. He went with Paul, Wade, LaBron, Carmelo, and Brand almost exclusively. They are the 5 best players, if you're going to go down, go down swinging. They turned it around, ended up seizing control late in the third quarter, and then played terrific in the 4th quarter to seal the victory. Some highlights:
I'm running out of things to say about Carmelo Anthony. 35 points, and the first guy for Team USA in quite a while to sack up. He's not going to let this team lose. His game is perfect for this style of play, we've discussed this before, but more importantly he's taking control when it matters. He hit the dagger 3 at the end of the third quarter to push the lead to 7 and you could see the Italian team drop their heads as it went down.
Wade also played well when they needed him, he's kind of lost in the Melo love fest, but he's been very good. He had 26 points but most importantly he's been the one creating steals on the defensive end and leading to the fast break baskets. His D seems to always start the run. Wade knocks the ball away, next thing you know it's a 3 on 1 with LaBron, Wade, and Carmelo coming at some poor Euro backpedaling and thinking "I'm about to get dunked on...hard". Wade also has been huge on dribble penetration against the zones. Our guys have always struggled with that, but he's been a big factor in breaking it down.
Overall, this one gets a B+. A win over a pretty tough team, the first half was looking like a disaster, but Coach K deserves a lot of credit for realizing it was time to go with his star players and let them get it done. Team USA wins the pool, goes undefeated (unless they lose to Senegal, not happening), and will play either Australia, Brazil, or Lithuania in the first knockout game on Saturday night. Should be fun.