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Uninterested USA still beats Ukraine, now on to knockout round against Mexico

Sep 4, 2014, 1:51 PM EDT

USA v Ukraine Getty Images

Thursday’s game against the Ukraine literally didn’t mean a thing to the USA, they had already secured the top seed in Group C, their spot in the 16-team knockout round already was locked. This was basically another exhibition game for the Americans.

And it showed.

Once again Team USA came out slow, acting exactly like it was their third game in three days. Which it was. Combine that with a vintage Mike Fratello strategy (the former NBA head man coaches the Ukrainians) of bottling up the paint, slowing the game down and just making it ugly and you got the USA in a little trouble early. The Ukrainians were driving the lane, the Americans were not moving the ball and Team USA trailed 19-14 after one quarter.

Then things returned to normal. With the middle bottled up the USA guards started to knock down shots — James Harden led the way with 17, Stephen Curry had 14 including three three-pointers. Eventually the onslaught came (a 17-5 run to end the first half) and the USA eventually pulled away.

The final score was 95-71 USA.

The USA got a scare at the end of the game, when Kyrie Irving fell on his hip after going up for a shot with less than two minutes to go in the game. There was no twisting of a body part, but it was a hard landing. He limped back straight to the locker room. We are awaiting an update.

Next up for the USA is Mexico to start the round of 16, Saturday at 10 am ET (on ESPN 2). Mexico boasts a couple NBA players — Jorge Gutierrez, Gustavo Ayon — their level of talent is on the lower end of the teams the USA has faced so far. This should be another blowout win for the Americans.

When it gets down to the final 8 teams, things could get a little more challenging for the USA. (But really Spain in the gold medal game should be the only game Team USA could lose.)

If you’re looking for bright spots, the USA was out and running in the second half again and had six players in double digits — Harden and Curry we mentioned, plus Anthony Davis had a dozen and ran the floor well, Irving and DeMarcus Cousins each had 11, and Kenneth Faried had 10 points and 8 rebounds.

Derrick Rose moved well and made some nice plays (four assists) in his third game in three days. He seemed as fresh as the rest of the team. That said he still has not found his shot, going 2-of-9 for four points.

We could pick apart how the Ukrainians had success getting the ball inside early and scoring that way, plus keeping the Americans out of transition for stretches. But really it’s hard to judge a USA team just coasting to wins against opponents it can overwhelm. Maybe a team like Lithuania could give the Americans trouble by exploiting the lack of defensive focus and offensive ball movement. Maybe.

But really, as we head to the knockout round, all signs point to USA vs. Spain in the gold medal game in Madrid — and that one the Americans legitimately could lose. We’ll see how Team USA tightens up in the knockout round starting Saturday in Barcelona.

  1. basketballhooper1 - Sep 4, 2014 at 1:56 PM

    WOW, they played Ukraine AND Slovenia in the same day?!! Crazyyyyyy

  2. innovativethinking87 - Sep 4, 2014 at 2:52 PM

    Rose another no show

    2-of-9 for four points.

    Hes been beyond terrible

    • smoothaswilkes - Sep 4, 2014 at 3:13 PM

      Thanks for the update on Rose. I didn’t realize his poor showing contributed to the USA losing to Ukraine. Hey, wait a minute…

    • chicitybulls - Sep 4, 2014 at 3:18 PM

      You’re really sad. I mean is every comment that you’re going to make on the USA team going to be about Rose’s performance? Seems kind of personal to me. While he didn’t shoot well he did do other things well. Did you watch the game or just look at the stats? Maybe you should learn how to watch a game.

      • innovativethinking87 - Sep 4, 2014 at 4:37 PM

        His numbers are terrible dude. Its the facts thats all I’m saying.

      • florida727 - Sep 4, 2014 at 10:39 PM

        If all you do is judge a performance based on someone’s numbers, then you really know nothing about basketball. That’s all I’m saying.

  3. whealy86 - Sep 4, 2014 at 8:11 PM

    I’ve watched all the games and I can admit rose isn’t playing like the rose of old, nowhere near it right now, but the talent is clearly still there and looks healthy. He’s played good basketball just can’t get the shots to drop. I’m a sixers fan so I’m really not a fan or Rose just a fan of basketball. Poster above is right , go back and watch the games and you might leave with a different feeling. For a guy that has only played a handful of games in two years because of horrible injuries he is rusty but like I said the Talent is still there and I can see him back to being a top level player this year, maybe not the Rose of old but his comeback will speak volumes.

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