Team USA men's hoops edges France, clinches top seed in Rio: Things to know
The U.S. finishes group play a perfect 5-0 despite struggling to put away another opponent
Stop me if you've heard this one. Team USA barely survived a push from an inferior team in group play to hang on and remain undefeated. Team USA held off France 100-97 to finish 5-0 in group play and clinch the top seed headed to the quarterfinals knock-out stage. They will likely face Spain, Croatia, or Brazil on Wednesday.
The good news for Team USA? Klay Thompson finished with 30 points, and for much of the game Team USA played better defense. Kyrie Irving really helped get the passing going and the bench provided a much-needed spark.
The bad? France was without Tony Parker, who sat with a "toe injury" as France prepared to focus on medal round play. Also, Nando De Colo barely played in the second half yet France only lost by three points, and cut the lead to four under two minutes remaining as the Team USA's offense once again stalled.
Team USA is undefeated, their margin of victory in the five games was 117, and yet there are serious concerns about how many more times they can play uninspired, lifeless ball on both ends and survive, especially when they start to get the best shots from the best teams in the tournament.
They look beatable, and the world knows it. But they haven't been beaten yet.
Here are five things to know about Team USA's three-point win:
1. There were positive signs.
It doesn't seem like it based off that fourth quarter, but Team USA's defense was better and the bench was great. DeAndre Jordan was a plus-12 and was active on both ends. He made some great passes when the defense collapsed. Paul George continues to show excellent leadership. His six-point, plus-two performance doesn't show how good he was at setting a tone with aggressiveness.
And of course, there's Klay Thompson, who had been dreadful shooting coming in, got warmed up, and the splash was on. Getting 30 points from any Team USA member probably means they're going to win, and if he can stay hot, that's going to help.
2. Where on earth is the defense?
France shot 56 percent from the field and this is a team that was without Parker and DeColo for much of the game. They continue to have zero coverage in pick and roll situations as Kyrie Irving and Carmelo Anthony are useless in helping down from the corners. When DeMarcus Cousins gets put in space, he's really struggling and there's no LeBron James to cover up those issues.
It's enough to make you wonder if either DeAndre Jordan shouldn't start for Cousins, or Draymond Green (who has been dreadful but showed some things Sunday) should start for either Durant or Anthony -- a prospect that is never going to happen because of politics -- or both. They need better secondary recover when a big has to attack a ball-handler because they've gotten past Irving or another wing.
They showed flashes of disruption, especially with the second unit, and looked like they were finally going to swarm with their athleticism, but then they shrank back and looked tired again. This remains their biggest threat in medal round play. If they face a team that shoots the lights out, Team USA is going down.
3. The late-game offense once again a problem.
You know how Kevin Durant would dribble away the clock in Oklahoma City and everyone blamed Russell Westbrook, or Scott Brooks, or Billy Donovan? Well, Durant's doing the same thing late in these games and it's hurting Team USA. Smaller defenders are attacking his 6-foot-11 dribble and it's giving him problems. The rest of the team is just spotting up and waiting for the ball-handler to force help.
Kyrie Irving threw a phenomenal late-game alley-oop to Durant to help put the game away, but the offense continues to be an issue.
4. France did some things well.
Rudy Gobert bounced back from what's been a weak performance in Rio. He finished with six points and five boards, but was a plus-8 and his rim protection really helped impact the game. He gave Cousins fits trying to keep him off the glass and helped frustrate the American big man.
Mickaël Gelabale got hot in the second half and finished with eight points, helping cut the Team USA lead whenever the Americans started to pull away. Denver Nugget Joffery Lauvergne was a minus-12 but hit a lot of shots to help keep the offense afloat.
You wonder what would have happened if France had played Parker in this game.
5. Team USA is the No. 1 seed and undefeated, but there's a confidence problem.
On average, they should win every game and get gold. It may not be dominant, but it'll be good enough. However, if they face a team that gets red hot from the outside, they could get bit. They won't have a 30-point comfort zone to play with.
They don't necessarily need to play better to win the gold. But this is looking like the most disappointing team since 2004, and if they do get caught, it will be considered an outright disaster. It's on them.
Relive game commentary:
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