Aug 30, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
Scouting reports make Finland sound like a team that’s fun to watch play — it’s all about pressure on defense then shooting from the outside (usually a catch-and-shoot). It’s a good system.
Until you run into someone that does it better.
The USA does it better.
That is Finland’s problem in its World Cup opener Saturday (3:30 ET, ESPN). The USA does what Finland wants to do, but better. With better athletes. And more of them.
Finland — led by Utah’s Erik Murphy, plus Petteri Koponen (Dallas has his draft rights) — is the 39th ranked team in the World. Compare that to what the USA did in its tune-up games: Beat world No. 10 Brazil by 17 points, then world No. 26 Dominican Republic by 43 points, then world No. 17 Puerto Rico by 26, finally world No. 13 Slovenia by 30.
On paper all of those teams are better than Finland. Many much better.
Which is to say that for the USA this should be like the tune-up games, ones where they can overwhelm their opponent. The USA can pressure on defense, disrupt Finland’s offense, run on them and generally attack and be aggressive without fear. Look for Anthony Davis to have a massive game, along with wing players like James Harden and Stephen Curry. Look for all 12 USA players to get quality run.
Finland got into the tournament as a wild card selected by FIBA (along with Greece, Brazil and Turkey). Finland was taken instead of China, Russia (2012 Olympic bronze medalists) and Germany, among others. Why? Mostly because they travel well and had the backing of Rovio (the makers of Angry Birds) — basically, they were going to make FIBA money at the gate selling tickets. It was about the dollars, not the basketball quality. Just so you know FIBA has some FIFA in them.
Good for the Finland players, they got in the door and want to make the most of this. I hope they savor the experience.
But the USA should win this one going away.
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