The Redeem Team

Photo: NBA.com

It has been eight years since the United States won gold in men’s basketball and this year’s team is making sure that that drought ends. Led by Kobe Bryant on defense and Dwayne Wade on the offensive end, this team has demolished its opponents in its first three exhibitions. Their average margin of victory has been 30 points, including a 36 point victory over Lithuania and a 32 point crushing of Turkey. Even more remarkable than the final score though, is how this team has played. Its defense has been nothing less than phenomenal. Kobe Bryant has embodied this defensive intensity as he has picked out the opponent’s best player and stuck to him. In US’s game against Lithuania, Kobe chose to guard European star Sarunas Jasikevicius, who scored 28 points in Lithuania’s victoryover the United States in the 2004 games. Kobe shut down Jasikevicius, holding him to just 9 points on 2 of 8 shooting.

Kobe has shown the same competitive nature, the Jordan-esque instinct that made many people expect the Lakers to beat the Celtics in the NBA Finals. However, unlike the NBA Finals, Kobe is now surrounded by other superstars. He can focus entirely on defense and not worry about his offense. He doesn’t have to sprint up and down the base line, running off picks just to get an open look. With so many other excellent players on the court, Kobe can’t be double-teamed. No one on Team USA can be double-teamed, allowing every player to get open looks and easily beat defenders off the dribble. Kobe, Wade, and Carmelo Anthony are scoring with ease. They can focus on defense, knowing the offense will come. And unlike many past Olympic Teams, this year’s team does focus on defense. Not winning gold in 2004 was an embarrassment and this team is not about to let that embarrassment continue. They are focused and determined to bring back gold to the US. Continue reading “The Redeem Team”

USA Olympic Basketball

The United State’s Olympic Basketball team was announced today for the 2008 Olympics in China. The one glaring weakness of the team is the lack of size as the only true power forwards/centers on the team are Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard, and Carlos Boozer. Those three big men are joined by Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Jason Kidd, Michael Redd, Dwayne Wade, and Tayshaun Prince. Many other teams in the world such as Greece, Spain, and Russia all boast big men with excellent skill. If Bosh, Howard, and Boozer get into foul trouble and are unable to play many minutes, then other teams will use their size advantage to pull down rebounds and dominate the offensive glass. Anthony is supposed to start at power forward and play major minutes there, but I don’t expect him to be able to grab rebounds and fight for position in the paint like true power forwards. With FIBA International Rules giving players only five fouls before they foul out (unlike six in the NBA) and counting a technical foul as a personal foul, the US may have major problems with foul trouble. Continue reading “USA Olympic Basketball”

2008 NBA Champions: Boston Celtics

What a night for the Celtics. You could not have imagined a victory more dominant or more emotional than the Celtics’ 131-92 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers yesterday to win the NBA Championship. The Celtics dominated every facet of the game, out-rebounding the Lakers 48 to 29 and forcing 19 turnovers. The Big 3 had their greatest performance of the year. Kevin Garnett returned to regular season form with 26 points and 14 rebounds. Paul Pierce may not have had one of his greatest shooting performance (4 of 13 from the field), but he still ended with 18 points and 10 assists. Ray Allen completed his dominating Finals with 7 three pointers and 26 points, setting an NBA record of 22 three pointers made in an NBA Finals’ series. Rajon Rondo played the best game of his career, taking the ball to the hoop and forcing the Lakers to guard him. He had 21 points (8 of 20 from the field), 7 rebounds, 8 assists, and 6 steals. The Celtics best bench player, James Posey, had 11 points, making all four of his shots including three 3 pointers, 3 rebounds, and 3 steals. That is just on the offensive end.

As the final seconds ticked off the clock in the 2008 NBA season, everyone on the court, in the Garden, and in the NBA had learned a valuable lesson from these NBA Finals: Defense wins championships. The Celtics just overpowered the Lakers defensively and Kobe looked lost the entire series. The Lakers did score 92 points in the game, but that was only with a 32 point fourth quarter when the Celtics were no longer focusing on defense, but rather the seconds remaining in the game. Boston’s defense shined through in the first half where they held the Lakers to 35 points (15 in the second quarter), 30% shooting, and had a halftime lead of 23 points. The rest of the game was just one big party for Boston fans. Continue reading “2008 NBA Champions: Boston Celtics”