Tag:Russell Westbrook
Posted on: September 8, 2010 9:20 am

Shootaround 9.8.10: Super Scola

Posted by Royce Young
  • Luis Scola was a one man wrecking crew yesterday against Brazil. He finished with 37 points and scored six in the closing minutes for Argentina. He was so good, he got his general manager to tweet, "Scola goes into video game god mode to finish off Brazil. Wow."
  • Jason Friedman of Rockets.com on Scola's performance: "Having watched him for three years now, Rockets fans know the truth: Scola is simply passion personified. He loves the game. Loves the competition. Loves the challenge of improving himself every day. The Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen once wrote that Scola is the walking, talking embodiment of every fan’s ideal: that if we, too, were able to compete at the world’s highest level, we would do so with the sort of passion and professionalism Scola displays on a daily basis. 99.999 percent of us play the game we love for free. If every professional basketball league on the planet were to suddenly dissolve, rest assured Luis Scola would play gratis, too. And he’d do so with a giant smile on his face."
  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star looking at Team USA's added incentive against Russia: "If the United States is looking for any extra motivation as the quarter-finals of the world basketball championships unfold, the players can look back on one of the darkest moments in the international history of the sport in that country, to a time before any of them were born. It was at the 1972 Munich Olympics, in one of the most storied games in international basketball history, that Russia beat the United States in a gold-medal game marred by a replayed finish that had all the stench of a pre-ordained result."
  • Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! looking at the same thing: "Thirty-eight years later, all the hate and acrimony between the Americans and Russians is gone on the basketball court. They used to look across the floor and wonder what in the world they had in common. All those Eastern European states – Serbia, Croatia and Lithuania – gobbled up the best players, and Russian basketball is left fighting for its identity, its soul, its future. Chicken fingers and potato skins in the shadows of the Ottoman Empire and Sea of Marmara — yes, the final victims of American sporting capitalism have paid a steep price."
  • Charles Barkley had a history of demanding trades and potentially chasing rings. Yet, he continues to rip on LeBron for the same things. Matt Bunch of Hot Hot Hoops looks at it: "So what’s the end result? Let your biases be known. Identify you’re being hypocritical, and explain why your present-day view is right and your past one is wrong. I don’t think anyone is clamoring for ideological rigidity from Trent Dilfer or Mark Schlereth or Charles Barkley, but if you’re going to say something that will figuratively make the listening audience’s ears bleed, preface it (or follow it) with an explanation of why you just said that thing. It’s the least you can do; we’re not stupid."
  • Could Chris Bosh's departure lead to Andrea Bargnani's breakout? RaptorsRepublic looks: "Maybe it’s a psychological thing with him, Bosh’s departure might not open up space on the court, but it could in his mind? Huh? Or maybe it’s simply a matter of hoisting more shots? Perhaps 14.3 FGAs a game doesn’t cut it for him and if he ups that he’ll be more interested in playing defense and will be more comfortable making plays for others. I’m clutching at straws here, but any way one looks at it, the burden of proof of whether Bargnani can become the player he was touted to be rests solely on him, not anyone else. It is no-one’s “fault” that he’s been under-performing except his. The coming season presents a different opportunity for Bargnani to excel, not necessarily a better one."
Posted on: September 7, 2010 4:31 pm
Edited on: September 7, 2010 4:33 pm

U.S. takes on hungry Russians in quarterfinals

Posted by Royce Young

It may have been a cakewalk for the U.S. in the round of 16, but the road to gold in Turkey is about to start getting a little more difficult. Next up is Russia for Team USA (Thursday at 11 a.m. ET), a squad with talent, size and a coach hungry to beat his native country.

How did they get here?
Thus far in the World Championships, Russia holds a nice 5-1 record. They went 4-1 in group play with only a 9-point loss to Turkey being a blemish. Russia dispatched New Zealand relatively easily in the round of 16 with Timofey Mozgov leading the way with 16 points and seven rebounds. Russia beat down New Zealand with tough defense, smart offense and by taking care of the ball. New Zealand shot only 31 percent from the floor and never had any rhythm on the offensive end.

Who are their best players?
Russia's best player, Vik Khryapa hasn't played in the championships yet, and will likely sit out against the U.S. with a nagging injury. So after him, there's a Sergey Monya, a quality 6'9 swingman that can shoot, Andrey Vorontsevich who had 18 points and 11 rebounds against New Zealand, Sasha Kahn who you might remember playing for the University of Kansas and Timo Mosgov who signed with the Knicks this offseason and is 7'3.

Mozgov has been impressive in the tournament thus far, leading the Russians in scoring at 12.5 ppg in just around 18 minutes a game. He's displayed a wide range of ability and has become a major piece to the Russians success. Vorontsevich has hit 9-18 from 3 so far in Turkey and combining him with Monya, the Russians have shooters.

Who is their coach?
Leading the Russians is David Blatt, a duel citizen for both the U.S. and Israel. Currently, he's the coach for Maccabi Tel Aviv. Blatt played point guard for Pete Carril at Prince from 1977-1981. He runs a version of the Princeton offense that uses a bunch of cuts and offside movement to free up passing lanes.

Some bulletin board fodder from aforementioned coach?

Everyone remembers the famous 1972 gold medal game right? The USSR defeated the Americans in what some would call a "controversial" game. Basically the officials stole the game from the U.S. Doug Collins famously left his silver medal in Munich and has never held it. But the current Russian coach thinks the game was fair.

"By the way, there's a wonderful film about that, and I hate to say it as an American, but it looks like the Russians were right," Blatt told Chris Sheridan of ESPN. "The American team was not cheated. Funny things happened, but in reality it was fair. It was fair."

Well, watch the ending of the game and tell me how it could possibly be fair. I'm sure Coach K has relayed this message to his team. If there was any extra motivation needed, Blatt just provided it.

How does the U.S. match up with Russia?
Russia has one of the most apt players to defend Kevin Durant in the 6'9 Monya, but still, even star NBA defenders can't hold Durant down. The Russians will struggle with Team USA's speed and athleticism, though Russia does have size. Mozgov is over seven feet, plus there's Kahn and Alexey Zhukanenko who are both 6'11.

Where Russia will struggle is with the guards. Pressure from Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Eric Gordon will likely force a number of turnovers from Russia, as their guards aren't strong with the ball.

But there will be more focus on Lamar Odom, Kevin Love and Tyson Chandler in this one than any game before because Russia wants to use the post to get open looks for the guards and forwards. Rebounding will be key so we might see more Love early on than we have yet. At least I hope so.

Can they beat the U.S.?
This should be a better game than Angola. Russia has some talent, some size and players that can actually match up against the U.S. Plus, they have a coach that won't allow them to get into a free-flowing affair like Angola did. This is a much better team than what Team USA saw Monday.

But they don't have a chance. Russia will try and make the game ugly by grinding out long possessions and scrapping defensively, but there's just too much of a talent differential. It won't be a 55-point spanking, but it will most likely be at least double-digits. And with Blatt's recent comments, Team USA might make it a point to add a few more buckets than usual.
Posted on: September 7, 2010 2:52 pm

Pop Quiz: How will the All-Star Game look?

Fall is here, hear the yell, back to school, ring the bell ... The NBA season is right around the corner, and NBA training camp starts in just a few short weeks. To get you ready for the NBA season, we've put together 25 pop quizzes. Pencils ready? We continue our Pop Quizzes with this question...

What will the All-Star Game look like?

Los Angeles. City of Angels. Home of the back-to-back NBA champions, the legendary LA Lakers. And in February, home of the 2011 NBA All-Star Game. It's going to be ridiculous, it's going to be over-the-top (more so than even your normal All-Star Game). It's going to be expensive. Really, really expensive. It will also be interesting as next year there are likely to be big changes in the All-Star Game. So what exactly is that game going to look like?

It's difficult to predict, obviously, who will be participating in the game. Even more so than any other episode of predicting the future, there are so many factors that can play into who makes it. Not only things like injuries, team downturns, unexpected rises, and trades, but the popularity contest of the voting system. But there are some things we can examine the possibility of.

For starters, with Amar'e Stoudemire headed to New York, there's a spot down low for the West. You can slide in Tim Duncan, because he's like Johnny Cash. Steady like a freight train, sharp like a razor. Pau Gasol's another lock, as many think he's the best power forward in the league right no w. From there, you've got Zach Randolph and Chris Kaman as the other two bigs from last year's squad. Kaman's unlikely to return with the addition of Blake Griffin, and Randolph's success is tied to an inconsistent Grizzlies team. Meanwhile, Yao Ming returns from injury and will most likely look like a legitimate contender for the starting spot.

But what about Andrew Bynum? We've been waiting for Bynum to live up to his potential for three seasons, and he's constantly referred to as one of the best centers in the league, despite his numerous injury issues. With the Lakers getting older, and Bynum supposedly healthier than he has been in years, Bynum has to be considered a strong contender not just for the backup position, but possibly as a starting center (which would put Tim Duncan at power forward, where he belongs).

Speaking of Duncan, he and Dirk Nowitzki are headed down the stretch and it'll be important to note that one of them is going to take a step backwards. Age demands it. And though Duncan is widely considered the best power forward of all time by those that consider him a power forward, he's most likely to have the dropoff. You saw it at times last season. The writing isn't on the wall, but there's a pen by the chalkboard. Bear in mind we're talking about inches below the greatness he's always provided, but it might be enough with a rising Bynum to shove either him or Dirk out of the starting lineup. And that will just be weird.

This is all before we start trying to figure out the point guards in the West. Steve Nash showing no signs of slowing down. Chris Paul back to full health. Deron Williams healthy with Al Jefferson beside him and more of the offensive load. Tyreke Evans, out of the rookie well and into the general pool. Russell Westbrook, possibly coming on as one of the better slide and dice guards in the league on a team that looks poised to make a run. Stephoe Curry, a rookie of the year runner-up with another season under him and a license to score. This likely means Jason Kidd will not be returning to the team for the 11th time in his career.

And oh, yeah, Kobe will be back in the starting spot. No "probably." He will be.

In the East? Well, the Miami Triad was formed from guys in the East, so they're likely to stay. Even with a downturn in production from sharing the ball, all three should be locks, though it's hard to see Bosh making the starting spot as he was a reserve last season. Amar'e Stoudemire could wind up knocking Kevin Garnett out of the starting spot which would be another changing of the guard. But a more likely scenario is Joe Johnson being unable to reach the starting spot again and moving into the reserve spot as the East looks like the West from last year: four bigs and a guard (Dwyane Wade). Which will be disappointing considering Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo's existence, both of whom are probable to return as starters.

Carlos Boozer, freed from the big-heavy West, may be able to work his way into a spot, and Paul Pierce may be on the bubble. If Andrew Bogut returns healthy, he could complicate matters, along with Brandon Jennings. Basically, point guards are going to massively complicate these rosters.

Sure, some of these players are going to go down to injury, others will have downturn seasons. But there's a strong indication that this might be a year of big changes in the All-Star Game, both with starting rosters and the reserve spots.

But the parties will be awesome regardless.
Posted on: September 6, 2010 1:04 pm
Edited on: September 6, 2010 1:05 pm

Team USA dismantles Angola, 121-66

Posted by Royce Young

Some thought Team USA might have been holding something back in group play. Maybe they were, or maybe they're just hitting their stride.

The U.S. obliterated Angola 121-66 in a game that was only close at 0-0. It was 33-13 after the first, 65-38 at the half and in the end, 55 points separated the two teams.

This was easily the Team USA's best offensive performance as the U.S. hit triple-digits for only the second time in the tournament, scored the most points, shot a sizzling 53 percent and knocked down 18 3s on 38 shots. Kevin Durant and Chauncey Billups did most of the damage scoring 17 and 19 points, respectively, with all of Durant's coming in the first half. Rudy Gay and Eric Gordon both added 17 as well.

One of the most impressive and encouraging aspects of the game was the way the U.S. moved the ball. Team USA finished with 28 assists for their 41 made baskets, a pretty incredible number. Plus, the U.S. only turned the ball over four times and didn't have their third until the fourth quarter. It was near flawless offensive execution for the U.S., something that they had struggled with the past three games.

Angola helped some in getting the U.S.'s offense moving though. Angola didn't play hardly any man-to-man defense, but rather deferred to a very soft zone, letting the U.S.'s shooters have almost any look they wanted. Billups, who came in 4-19 on 3s in the previous five games, went 5-7 from deep. Gordon went 5-6 from 3. Derrick Rose hit 3 of 4. It was a shooting gallery for the U.S. and Angola didn't mind.

On top of the soft defense, Angola also never even attempted to control tempo. They were perfectly content with playing at the U.S.'s pace and as a result, didn't have a lot of of offensive consistency. The game was mainly free-flowing, especially on the Angola end. And the Angolans lack of size didn't help either. The U.S. won the boards 43-23 and snagged 19 offensive rebounds.

Angola's top scorer Olimpio Cipriano didn't play because of an injury sustained against Germany, but Joaquim Gomes had a nice night for Angola. He finished with 21 points on 9-12 shooting to lead all scorers.

Moving forward, there's not a ton to take from the game other than it looks like the U.S. is hitting on all cylinders. Which is obviously what you want to be doing heading deeper into the knockout round. The road is going to be much tougher than it was today, with a likely matchup against a quality Russia squad next.

Team USA has off Tuesday and Wednesday and will play the winner of Russia-New Zealand, who play a little later today.
Posted on: September 5, 2010 4:08 pm
Edited on: September 5, 2010 4:10 pm

Up first in knockout play for Team USA: Angola

Posted by Royce Young

The trip to the knockout round for Team USA wasn't an especially tough one. Though most agreed Group B might have been the most difficult at the World Championships, the U.S. cruised through with only one close call and an overall winning margin of 24.8 points per game.

But now it's serious. Now, one bad half, one bad quarter, one bad possession can be the difference between moving on and flying back across the Atlantic. In the knockout round, it doesn't matter how much better you are than everyone else - you can lose. And you can lose to pretty much anyone. The road to the gold medal isn't a cakewalk and it starts Monday against Angola. So what do we know about the Angolans? Pretty much nothing. So let's all try and learn something here.

How did they get here?
Angola went 2-3 in group play in one of the more difficult sets. Their scoring margin was a negative 12.8 points and their two wins came against Germany and Jordan. Angola defeated Germany by four in overtime and Jordan by 14. A big fourth quarter is what got them by Jordan, and without that win, Angola would be headed home.

Their losses were ugly though. Australia and Argentina both beat Angola by 21 and Serbia walloped them by 50, yes fifty , points. And honestly, it could have been 60 very easily. Angola didn't play Argentina all that awful, but the game was really never closer than 10 after the first quarter. But they did outscore the Argentinians 27-19 in a quarter.

Before you go any further, where the heck is Angola?
Angola is an African country located in the south-central region of the country. It's bordered by Nambia on the south, Congo on the north, Zambia on the east and the west coast is on the Atlantic Ocean. Luanda is the capital city. Most people speak Portuguese in Angola.

Do they have a history of ever winning?

In the 2006 World Championships, they went 3-2 in group play losing only to Spain and Germany, and nearly knocked off France in the round of 16. They are historically one of the best African countries in basketball and have competed in the Olympics every year since 1992. Their best ever finish at either the Olympics or Worlds is 10th. Angola has never had a native player play in the NBA.

Who are their best players?
There aren't any NBA players on the roster and honestly, not a ton of great talent either. Olimpio Cipriano is their best player, averaging 14.8 ppg in group play. He dropped 30 against Germany on 11-15 shooting in their big overtime win. Shooting guard Carlos Morais is their best outside shooter, as he hit eight 3s in preliminary play.

On the inside, Angola relies heavily on Joaquim Gomes, a 6'8 center that scores mostly on effort. His best game was against Argentina and Luis Scola, where he put up 16 points and seven rebounds in 25 minutes. He's not overly skilled, but certainly works hard on the glass to make up for his slight stature.

Nobody really sticks out in terms of superior athleticism or skill. A couple players are capable of scoring, but there's not really a go-to guy or someone they can count on to eat up the boards.

What do the matchups look like?
Angola is similar to the U.S. in that there's little size on the roster. There is nobody over 6'8 on the roster. Their lineup is guard heavy and relies almost entirely on hard cuts, penetration to kick out on and knocking down open shots. There's really no post presence and they don't rebound well. They want to attack using the dribble and players like Cipriano rely on getting looks off that penetration.

But by being so undersized, there is just no way for Angola to defend someone like Kevin Durant. Cipriano who is 6'4 will likely get the call and that's just an insane mismatch. Their guards a scrappy, but still, matching up with stronger players like Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Eric Gordon will be tough. A guy like Lamar Odom could be a nightmare for Angola because Odom has size but on top of that he can score off the dribble and Angola's bigs don't move especially well.

Does Angola have a chance to beat the U.S.?

One thing you can count on: Angola will play very, very hard. This is that country's chance to make a statement so they will absolutely give everything. But it will take a flawless night from Cipriano shooting the ball and Lutonda will have to be terrific running the offense. They will have to control tempo and limit turnovers, two things Team USA thrives at pressing opponents against.

Does Angola have any chance whatsoever? No, none. There's just no way Team USA drops this game. It could be similar to Iran and Tunisia in the sense that the first 15 minutes are ugly because the U.S. and Coach K are feeling the game out, but by the end, the margin will likely be around 30.
Posted on: September 2, 2010 11:12 am

Team USA cruises past Tunisia, finishes 5-0

Posted by Royce Young

Team USA had it completely on cruise control from the outset, coasting through 40 minutes against Tunisia in a somewhat lackluster 92-57 win, or as lackluster a 35-point blowout can be. The U.S. finishes 5-0 in group play.

At the half, the U.S. only led 39-33 and held a two-point lead with two minutes before the break. It wasn't sloppy offense or defense really, just a lack of interest. The intensity was at an all-time low and a general carelessness in taking smart shots or fighting through screens.

Reasons for the U.S.'s lack of focus include, Tunisia is regarded as maybe the worst team in the tournament, plus the game was completely meaningless for the U.S. That's really no excuse for coasting, though the game was nothing more than a scrimmage. One of the fears of the last two games against Iran and Tunisia is developing poor habits going into the knockout round. Though at the same time, Coach K might be fine with Team USA taking things lightly and resting mentally and physically going into the tournament.

The final result was never in doubt and it was only a matter of time until the U.S. flipped the switch and put Tunisia away, winning the second half 53-24. Eric Gordon did the most flipping, hitting four second half 3s and finished with a game-high 21 points. Kevin Durant finished with 14 on 5-9 shooting.

Russell Westbrook provided a few fireworks with a couple of loud dunks in the second half, but other than that, this was about as bland a game as there is. The starters barely played with Team USA's second unit handling pretty much the entire second half.

But the point is, Team USA took care of business all five games, even if some were uglier than others. Some expected a slip here or there against one of these teams and there really never was a question, outside of Brazil. But the U.S. is in charge heading into the knockout round and with a better second half against Tunisia and a well rested squad, everything is set up for a quality run.

Because of Australia beating Angola, Team USA will draw Angola in the round of 16.
Posted on: September 1, 2010 1:51 pm
Edited on: September 1, 2010 1:53 pm

It was a bit ugly, but the U.S. beats Iran 88-51

Posted by Royce Young

In a game that was really decided before it started, Team USA handled Iran 88-51 Wednesday. But despite the lopsided score, there was a bit of a sour taste left after the final whistle.

The first quarter was fairly ugly and the U.S. played relatively sloppy throughout. How does the saying go, you have to walk before you can run? Or something like that? That was Team USA's problem against Iran today, especially in the early going. The U.S. tried to blow out the overmatched Iranians in the first 10 minutes.

It was like they were trying to prove how good they really are in a matter of minutes, instead of just playing within the flow of the game. Everything was rushed offensively, they tried to fast break when it wasn't there, they gambled on passes constantly and forced up a bunch of shots early in the 24. After the first, Team USA only held a six-point lead, 19-13. Commentator Fran Fraschilla compared it well to a 2-seed playing a 15-seed in the NCAA tournament. The final result was likely already decided, but the favored team was just trying too hard.

But eventually the U.S. found its rhythm and started playing its game. What it really took was one player settling down and getting Team USA relaxed and into its game. One would of course expect that to be Kevin Durant, but it turned out to be the other Kevin that provided a much needed spark. In his first four minutes on the floor, Love poured in nine straight points and snagged three boards, as he and Team USA second unit really got the team moving.

The second half was a different story as the U.S. forced turnovers, got in transition and played solid halfcourt offense and defense. Still, it wasn't as crisp as most expect and would like to see, but the fact is Team USA took care of Iran just the way it should. The main positive was the U.S.'s man-to-man defense which was pretty terrific. Iran's slower guards never had a chance to breathe and Hamed Haddadi, Iran's main threat, wasn't able to get many quality touches on the post.

But man, credit Iran. They played as hard as any team I've seen in a double-digit game. Haddadi finished with 19 points and had probably 19 huge smiles. The Iran team had a great attitude throughout and grinded for all 40 minutes. The Iranians deserve a lot of credit for their performance, even if they were on the wrong end of a loss. Iran struggled mightily on offense, shooting only 30 percent and turning the ball over 24 times.

I think most were hoping for a tidy blowout to feel better about the close call against Brazil. And while the U.S. definitely didn't necessarily ease any concerns, in the end it was a 37-point dispatching of an overmatched Iranian squad. The starters didn't play much at all in the second half and after the first two minutes of the second quarter, the game wasn't ever in question. Nobody really stuck out statistically for Team USA as Durant led the way with 12 points, Love 13 and Derrick Rose 11.

Team USA goes to 4-0 and wraps up Group play against Tunisia at 9:30 a.m. ET Thursday.
Posted on: August 30, 2010 4:58 pm
Edited on: August 30, 2010 5:04 pm

Team USA slips by feisty Brazil, 70-68

Posted by Royce Young

It took a couple of missed free throws and two missed layups from Brazil inside of five seconds left for Team USA to squeak out a 70-68 victory Monday. The game was close throughout, with Brazil actually leading for a large portion. But Kevin Durant's 27 points and 10 rebounds powered the U.S. past Leandro Barbosa's talented and scrappy Brazil squad.

While obviously a win is what is important, there are a few concerns to point out here. Brazil controlled the tempo of the game and nearly pulled off the win playing without two of its best players in Nene and Anderson Varejao . Plus, we really saw is how vulnerable Team USA can be. While Durant was obviously excellent, there were times in the second half where it was hard to picture where the U.S. would get points from. The crucial possessions became a lot of one-on-one with little ball movement or even really, penetration. It felt like everyone was waiting for a talented teammate to make a play. Team USA scored just nine points in the final frame. The good news is, Brazil only scored nine as well.

It was also interesting how Coach K went with one consistent lineup throughout the entire fourth quarter, and really most of the second half. These guys have played three games in three days since arriving in Turkey and instead of utilizing a really deep bench, the starters stayed in almost the entire 40 minutes. Lamar Odom was clearly fried late in the fourth, Derrick Rose was huffing and puffing and there just wasn't a ton spirit in their steps late. Coach K used Tyson Chandler for a short spell on Tiago Splitter in the third which worked well, but never came back to him. Kevin Love, who was outstanding yesterday, only played a handful of minutes.  There was little Rudy Gay, little Eric Gordon, no Stephen Curry, little Russell Westbrook and no Danny Granger.

But thank goodness for Durant. Without him, Team USA truly wouldn't have had any idea where the points would've come from. Chauncey Billups had 15, but a few questionable pull-ups from him nearly put the U.S. in a tough spot. Example: With about 20 seconds left and time on the shot clock with the U.S. up two, instead of running the offense throughout Durant, Billups handled the ball almost exclusively and hoisted a long 2-pointer. It clanged and gave Brazil a chance to tie or win.

Team USA couldn't get its lightning quick transition game going and therefore, was stuck toiling away in the halfcourt . Billups interestingly ran point over Rose, and honestly, there was just a lot of dribbling, one pass and then a contested shot. It was the kind of offense that surely Jay Triano (the U.S.'s offensive coordinator) had to pull what little hair he has remaining out. Team USA turned the ball over 21 times, with Durant giving it away eight times. I'd call it sloppy, but really it was just bad offense with no fast break opportunities. Brazil only had seven offensive rebounds and tried to limit U.S. run-outs by not crashing the offensive glass and instead getting back. And it clearly worked.

Brazil started out red hot, hitting 12 of its first 16 shots, including five 3s in the first quarter and 7-11 at the half. But the green and gold cooled, finishing around 42 percent and 10-27 from deep. Barbosa , who hit his first three 3-pointers, finished with 14 points on 5-18 shooting, including 3-13 from 3. Marcus Vinicius who spent a little time with the Hornets, had 14 points hitting on 4-5 3s, and Spurs signee Tiago Splitter showcased some of his ability, scoring 13 points and grabbing nine rebounds. Splitter used both hands extremely well and ran the pick-and-roll beautifully. Save for some foul trouble, Splitter had a very nice game.

If anyone is stunned by the close score or how Team USA looked very beatable, you shouldn't be. This U.S. squad isn't invincible. It's very good and in the right kind of game, darn near unbeatable. But against a smart, tactical unit like Brazil with players like Vinicius who can shoot, Splitter who can post and a coach like Ruben Magnano (who was the architect of the 2004 Argentina team that took gold) who is one of the best at game-planning for one specific team, Brazil posed a tough test.

But in the end, the U.S. won the game and moved to 3-0. Don't disrespect Brazil by thinking the Team USA nearly choked one away. It was a good game because Brazil has a very good team. There's not a ton of excuse for the lapse in offensive execution, but still, the U.S. improved to 3-0 taking control of Group B and also care of its three toughest group games in three days. Now it should be able to cakewalk to a 5-0 finish by dispatching Tunisia and Iran in the last two.

Team USA has the day off Tuesday and faces Iran Wednesday at 12 ET.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com