In the Tokyo Olympics semifinal matchup in men’s basketball, Team USA played against yet another outstanding team in Australia. During the exhibition games in Las Vegas, Team USA fell to Australia 91-83, in which the team was without Devin Booker, Jrue Holiday, and Khris Middleton. Being the semi-finals and one-game elimination, this was a must-win and Team USA showed why it’s the best.
Australia’s Talented Roster
Let’s take a look at the Boomers’ talented roster:
Patty Mills (Current Brooklyn Nets, won ring with San Antonio Spurs in 2014)
Joe Ingles (Current Utah Jazz)
Aron Baynes (Current Free Agent, Former Toronto Raptors — won ring with Spurs in 2014), injured for this game
Dante Exum (Current Free Agent, Former Houston Rockets — Former lottery pick to Utah Jazz, 5th pick in 2014 draft)
Matthew Dellavedova (Former Cleveland Cavaliers — won ring with Cavs in 2016)
Josh Green (Current Dallas Mavericks)
Matisse Thybulle (Current Philadelphia 76ers)
Team USA started off the game rough with Australia hitting on all cylinders. The Boomers were able to get stops, got out in transition, and playing great team basketball. USA had five turnovers in the first quarter alone and looked all out of sorts. Kevin Durant was the only player in rhythm having 13 of USA’s 28 points. This is where the momentum shifted.
The Americans missed 10 consecutive three-pointers and 2-of-13 for the half. Late in the second quarter, instead of settling for threes, USA became the aggressors driving in to the paint and creating contact with Australia and getting to the stripe. The defensive intensity shifted where guys got into the passing lanes, attacked the ball, and protected the rim. Down by as many as 15 points midway through the second quarter, USA closed the half on a 14-4 run, only down 45-42. This momentum shift turned into a third quarter explosion.
Team USA loves getting into these holes and crawling out of them. It started the half on the 7-0 run, which ultimately turned in a 48-14 run from midway second quarter, through the termination of the third. From the 2:35 mark in the second quarter till the 6:45 mark in the third quarter, USA went on a 20-0 run, with Durant scoring 10 of those. Australia was outscored 32-10 in the third and it was game over from there with USA putting a stamp on the game with a 15-2 run to end the period. Aside from tenacious defense and focused offensive output, USA outrebounded Australia 27-11 in the second half after being outrebounded 18-17 in the first. The collective effort displayed completely took the Boomers out of their rhythm resulting in a 97-78 victory. Sorry — that was a lot of numbers and runs, but they’re so essential to the complete turnaround for the USA.
The squad seems to smell the coffee at half-time and has come out with a bang for two consecutive games starting in the third quarter. Although Team USA faces deficits in the first half, the team is able to close out games. With a few post-game questions, Durant, who contributed 23 points and nine rebounds, summed it up and gave us an explanation for that:
“Well we know these teams are gonna hit us with their best punch to start. I think they wanna get us down early and hope that we panic and we didn’t. They’re gonna come out and play their best brand of basketball. They’re gonna play perfect basketball. We made plays, we got stops, coach put in a good defensive scheme at the end of the second quarter, and we was able to get some momentum and we come out in the third quarter with amazing energy and fight.”
Durant has been an offensive juggernaut the past several games and dominated the midrange against the Boomers. For what it’s worth, he’s the second player to shoot a 50-40-90 (Ray Allen) in the Olympics. He’s also now officially tied with Carmelo Anthony for most threes attempted in the Team USA’s olympic history. He was provided with great assistance, particularly from Devin Booker, who notched 20 points on 7-10 shooting, 3-5 from beyond the arc, and tremendous defense. With Booker’s performance, it seemed to be the defensive end that had an impact for his performance:
“I think we started guarding. Once we started playing some defensive, we get out in transition and play some good basketball. That’s what we talked about in the locker room. Offense is gonna come. We have a lot of talented guys out here, but we have to be on the same page on defense.”
This led to shooting 7-of-15 from behind the arc after the abysmal 2-of-13 in the first half.
With how the team will carry its momentum, he had a clever response:
“It’s all or nothing. This is what we came to get. This is what we came to set out for. It’s gonna be a big game for us. Every team’s gave us their best shot in the first half and we’re gonna try to get a good start next game.”
Jrue Holiday has continued his stupendous defensive performance and contributed 11 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists. Khris Middleton and Zach LaVine posted 11 points and nine points, respectively helping lead the bench mob and jumping in passing lanes, as each had two steals.
With this victory, Team USA is now competing for its fourth consecutive gold medal. It is important for Team USA to control the tempo from tipoff. It has worked twice for second half comebacks against talented Spain and Australia, but there’s no reason to face a third deficit and risk losing the gold medal. There are two keys to avoid a poor start: 1. Play defense. 2. Stop settling for threes and attack the opposition. For crying out loud, the last two games have ended with Team USA storming back on 14-4 runs to end the first half. Booker promised us a better first half, I hope we won’t be victims of lip service. With Durant’s stellar play, I want to see another “You the real MVP” speech holding yet another gold medal (number 3) that blocks out the naysayers from earlier in the Olympics.
Team USA will face the France in the finals matchup. France is a well-rounded team with an abundance of NBA talent. USA lost the previous matchup to France in the first game in Tokyo, 83-76. Team USA will definitely need to continue its hot-streak with having a better first half.
Tune into the final matchup on Friday, August 6 at 7:30pm PST on PeacockTV or NBCOlympics.com.