Gold Redeemed

Photo: ESPN

After 8 years if embarrassment, the United States’ Mens’ Olympic Basketball Team is back on top. While most of the country slept this morning, Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, and company squeaked out a 118-107 win over Spain to capturethe gold medal. Dwayne Wade scored 27 points and Kobe added 20 in a hard-fought, offensive game in which the US led by only 2 points with a couple minutes remaining. The US beat Spain by 37 points earlier in the Olympics and most people expected a similar result in the gold medal game. Spain had different ideas however. They came out ready to play and never let up. As a team, the Spaniards shot 51.4% from the field and 47.1% from 3-point range. They out-rebounded the US 37-31 and had only one fewer assist then the Gold Medal Winners. Pau Gasol had 21 points for Spain while Rudy Fernandez had 22 points. In what was supposed to be a celebration game for the US, Spain nearly pulled the upset of the Olympics.

As I look back on this gold medal run for the US team I have to wonder, why was this final game so close? Except for a preliminary game against Australia, the Americans destroyed every other team they met except for last morning’s game. They beat this Spanish team by 37 points earlier in the games and Spain was missing Jose Calderon this time. There is one glaring difference between the gold medal game and every other game the US played. The US took the final game for granted. Theystopped their throttling defense and yes, Spain shot the lights out, but they also had more wide open jumpers than any team that has played the US so far. It shouldn’t have been close, but it was. Kobe saved the team from another embarrassing upset by scoring 13 key points in the 4th quarter, including a four-point play in the final minutes of the game. Continue reading “Gold Redeemed”

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”