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With outside shot missing, USA relies on defense, transition to beat Brazil

Jul 17, 2012, 4:33 AM EDT

Brazil v USA - Men's Exhibition Game Getty Images

Well, that wasn’t pretty.

Sure team USA beat Brazil 80-69 in an exhibition of two Olympics-bound squads front of president Barack Obama and a packed house in Washington D.C., but Brazil provided a real test for the Americans and the result was some vulnerabilities showing for Team USA.

The problem was the United States could not get its outside shot to fall. The Americans started the game 0-for-9 from three and finished 6-of-24 from deep. On the night, the Americans shot just 27 percent on shots outside the paint for the game, according to John Schuhmann of NBA.com.

The USA settled for a lot of jumpers because Brazil rolls out a huge front line with the Wizards’ Nene, the Cavaliers Anderson Varejao and the Spurs Tiago Splitter — active big men who can cut off driving lanes and alter shots. The USA could not get inside to start, and their outside shots stayed out.

The result was Brazil leading 29-21 at one point midway through the second quarter. People were mocking this squad’s debate with the Dream Team at this point, some were saying the squad needed to be humbled and this was it. I think the more direct answer is there are just nights for every team when the shots won’t fall.

But while shooting can take a night off, defense doesn’t. That is supposed to be the USA’s trademark and their pressure defense bailed them out in this game — the United States forced 26 turnovers (nearly one third of all Brazil possessions ended in a turnover), which the United States converted into 19 fast break points. Brazil scored just five points in the second quarter.

“I felt our defense won the game,” USA coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the game. “I thought it was outstanding for three quarters, especially since we didn’t hit shots and we missed a lot of dunks. I liked the mental toughness of our team. We kept reminding them we’re not doing it on offense, don’t let it affect defense. I thought it didn’t.”

The other weapon the USA had — LeBron James.

Playing like he did for Miami in the finals when he had to carry his team for stretches on offense, he was a one-man wrecking crew on his way to 30 points on 20 shots, plus six boards. He attacked ferociously in transition and Brazil had no answer for that. Nobody does.

“We came out and didn’t shoot the ball extremely well,” LeBron said. “It got us down and we let our offense mess with our defense early on. Once we decided we needed to focus on our defense and not our offense we were able to turn the game around. It’s hard when you know you’re not scoring the ball like you know you can but it allowed us to pick up our defense even more and came out strong.”

It wasn’t pretty. But the USA took on a team that has an outside shot at a medal and found a way to win on an off night. They won with defense and transition buckets. Those are positives.

But if the USA plays like that in Barcelona in the coming days against Spain like they did against Brazil, it will not be enough. This team still has some growing to do before it can claim a spot as the best team in the world right now, forget comparing yourself to a team from 20 years ago.

  1. papichulo55 - Jul 17, 2012 at 5:15 AM

    Good wakeup call. Maybe now this team can stop being distracted about comparisons to The Dream Team. While its clear that the team could use offense from the post, they are still the clear favorites to win the gold.

    Being the best team on paper means nothing. It was good to see them recognize that they will have to compete. Still a little worried that there are a lot of hero-ballers. I trust this coaching staff, though.

    Thanks Brasil.

    • 808raiderinparadise - Jul 17, 2012 at 3:28 PM

      They aren’t the dream team, but nobody in this day and age is taking pictures with USA before/after/during the game star struck. The international competition is wayyyyyyyyyyyyyy better than anything the dream team faced. Each team has a few NBA players, back then it was Tony K. on croatia.

      hard to compare, but the dream team played against guys that couldnt even get Div 1 scholarships in our country, the game is diff today therefore the dream team had it very easy.

  2. rickyspanish - Jul 17, 2012 at 5:17 AM

    The only story that should be written about this team is if they lose. Otherwise it’s not news.

  3. letangusespertplus - Jul 17, 2012 at 5:31 AM

    and this is why they aren’t better than the dream team. guess that argument can die now.

    • ccshocktalk - Jul 17, 2012 at 9:05 AM

      Um, the dream team may have faced a total of 4 nba players in the olympics, let alone 4 on one team. Not to say the Dream Team wouldn’t beat foreign teams with NBA players, but lets be real, the field they played against doesn’t hold a candle to the current field.

      • scalfor3 - Jul 17, 2012 at 9:54 AM

        yeah. im sure nene and anderson varajao would’ve been problematic for the 92 team.

        hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah

  4. asublimeday - Jul 17, 2012 at 6:59 AM

    So all the morons trying to advance the dream team debate can go away.

  5. truthhurtstoo - Jul 17, 2012 at 7:29 AM

    LeBron is DA MAN!!

  6. charlutes - Jul 17, 2012 at 7:35 AM

    The team from 20 years ago was playing high school teams.

    • cantonbound13 - Jul 17, 2012 at 8:44 AM

      There were good NBA players on some of those teams, example: Tony Kukoc, Arvidas Sabonis. They also won by an average of 45 points.
      That was a very uneducated comment by you. Anderson Varejao & Tiago Splitter would not be a factor against the Dream Team.

      • canehouse - Jul 17, 2012 at 9:59 AM

        for the first time… i have to agree with you.

      • cantonbound13 - Jul 17, 2012 at 1:36 PM

        come on cane!! First time???

      • 808raiderinparadise - Jul 17, 2012 at 3:41 PM

        I can name top players in NBA right now:

        Dirk, Nash, Ginobli, Ibaka, Barbosa, Tony Parker ….

        please …… those are great players ….

        not even close.

        look at div 1 college teams too now …. flooded with international players getting scholarships.

        Let me know if you see Tony Parker asking for an autograph from LeBron before the game.

      • cantonbound13 - Jul 17, 2012 at 5:55 PM

        I can only name 4 guys on this team Kobe, LeBron, Durant & Paul or Anthony that would make the original squad. Not sure if any would start. Maybe LeBron. If Bird was in his prime, no way LeBron starts.

      • 808raiderinparadise - Jul 17, 2012 at 6:19 PM

        I wasn’t saying who could make the squad or not. Try learning to read the context of a comment before you respond with different subject matter. The Dream Team played nobody … in 8 games they didn’t even use 1 single time-out. Other teams players were taking pictures from the bench during the game. Handshakes inbetween FT’s. Undoubtedly a slew of amazing HOF all-time greats, but the international talent was so thin back then, actually pathetic … Tony Parker, France … HOFer, Manu Ginobli, Argetina HOFer, Dirk N, Germany HOFer ….and a huge amount of solid NBA players …. on olympic squads …. so good luck telling me the dream was would handle 2012’s squad when they played nobody.

  7. jtchernak - Jul 17, 2012 at 7:38 AM

    The US team plays like a bunch of arrogant jerks that are more privileged than you

  8. mgavin78 - Jul 17, 2012 at 7:41 AM

    Get rid of Carmelo.

    • cantonbound13 - Jul 17, 2012 at 8:41 AM

      you are an idiot

    • jimeejohnson - Jul 17, 2012 at 11:27 AM

      NYers love Carmelo. He’s a reflection of themselves: selfish, self-centered, greedy, and an egotistical loser!

  9. cantonbound13 - Jul 17, 2012 at 8:40 AM

    This should end any ridiculous debate comparing then to the original dream team.

  10. tomtravis76 - Jul 17, 2012 at 8:54 AM

    Yes,this one game has ended the Dream Team debate. Now instead of almost cheering against the London squad, for their lack of respect for the greatest team ever to walk on a basketball court, everyone can support them as they attempt to win the gold.

  11. trimaster1 - Jul 17, 2012 at 9:55 AM

    The 92 Dream team had a wake up with college players too. Every good team needs a wake up call. I still see this team winning the gold.

    As far as the debate with the 92 team, the 92 team would win because they had a very solid inside game, offensive and defensive.

    • Chris Fiorentino - Jul 17, 2012 at 5:05 PM

      If you watched the Dream Team special, that wasn’t even a regular exhibition game. It was barely an exhibition and Daly used to prove a point…plus Jordan only played 5 minutes total in that game. Give Kobe or LeBron only 5 minutes last night and Brazil probably wins by 10.

      PLUS, those weren’t your average college players. Chris Webber was one of the guys on that team and at stage of his life, he was better than everybody not on this year’s USA team who will play in the 2012 Olympics…he would probably start at center for this year’s team if you brought him from then to the present. So let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves with that comparison.

  12. bougin89 - Jul 17, 2012 at 10:04 AM

    I wish the NBA would adopt Fiba rules…I know the best of the best are playing but I love the way international basketball is played. So much more physical so you don’t see so many ticky tack fouls called.

    Few other points:

    1) Anybody else notice how James Harden just clearly does not fit in with this team. He looks like he’s a step slower, about 2 levels of effort lower on defense, and maybe just not good enough offensively? Maybe he is still in his NBA Finals funk?

    2) Lebron and Kobe were pretty amazing. I actually thought Lebron might be a little fatigued(maybe as much mentally as physically) from how many minutes and games he played in the playoffs but man he looks recharged already…he was dominant.

    GO USA!

    • hoops45 - Jul 17, 2012 at 6:54 PM

      What I noticed was Melo throwing up a terrible shot in traffic, then staying back to complain about the no call while his man is on the other end of the court swishing a 3 pointer. Melo not playing defense is a huge liability!

      • bougin89 - Jul 18, 2012 at 10:46 AM

        Agreed, it’s incredible Melo plays such a big role. He’s. Just. So. Overrated.

  13. isujames - Jul 17, 2012 at 10:04 AM

    Well said, forget being better than Dream Team 1, this team isn’t better than Dream Team 2 and probably not DT3!!!!

  14. isujames - Jul 17, 2012 at 10:12 AM

    Basketball has been around for how long???? The players the Dream Team faced back in 92 were near the same level of talent as they are today.That squad just had better players, talent, and team chemistry.

  15. bdevil1952 - Jul 17, 2012 at 12:24 PM

    I don’t agree with this author’s contention that the US team looked vulnerable last night. This US basketball team looks like a team that can turn it on at will and did so last night using the tour de force of it’s vice like defensive pressure in the second period that resulted in a 22 to 5 run. The Brazil team were gamers for a while but once the Americans stepped it up you could see that the Brazilians were overwhelmed and simply out of their league.

    I know, I know, Brazil built a lead of 10 points in the first quarter but it was apparent that the US team may have gotten swept up in the fact that The Obamas were among the sell out crowd and they came out a little soft on the defensive end. But that all changed at the start of the second period. Once the onslaught began there was no question about the ability of this team. My opinion is that this team’s only vulnerability is themselves. If they come out and play it cool like they did in the first period last night they make themselves vulnerable. If they play like they did the rest of the game there isn’t anyone in the world who can play with them.

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