Monday, August 30, 2010

2010 FIBA Worlds: Day 3 Analysis (USA-Brazil)

GROUP B: USA 70, Brazil 68

Quite a surprise in Istanbul on Monday, as an undermanned Brazilian team took a previously dominant Team USA to the limit, even with Anderson Varejao unavailable to suit up in green & yellow due to an ankle injury.

While USA-Brazil was tense and dramatic, it really wasn't a well-played game by either team. Even with a high-scoring first quarter, the teams shot a combined 42% from the floor and combined for 42 TOs (US-22, Brazil-20).

The 4th quarter was a parade of bad shots on both sides. Brazil jacked up 5-6 ill-advised shots in the 4th, with Barbosa & Huertas the main culprits. Each side could muster only nine points in the final stanza.

This game was not just about what Team USA didn't do right. Brazil made plenty of mistakes on its own, including poor shot selection. It wasn't just about Team USA's defense--Brazil's collective decision-making could have been better.

Brazil matches up physically with Team USA as well as any FIBA team besides France. We thought Brazil gave Team USA problems with athleticism of its own.

We really don't think the USA defense was that bad in the first half, when Brazil scored 28 in the 1st quarter and 46 for the half. Brazil made a ton of great plays. Tip the hat to them instead of wondering what Team USA did wrong.

Brazil just hit some tough/crazy shots in the 1st half, with a banked-in three plus a couple assists on threes from guys who were falling down, and a couple other fortuitous possessions. It was almost like an NCAA Tournament game where the shots were falling from all angles for the underdog. Thought the rotations were a little tighter in the 2nd half, with better contesting. But we don't think Team USA was much better as a whole in the 2nd half.

We have to give props to Brazil Coach Ruben Magnano. We've been huge fans of Rubes for about a decade since his Argentina team put on a clinic vs. Team USA in 2002. Magnano-led teams have now given Team USA fits four times: two wins (ARG '02 Worlds, ARG '04 Olympics) and two scares (ARG '03 Americas, BRA '10 Worlds).

Brazil spread the floor well, a Magnano trademark, and would often start its sets up very high. The pick/roll coverage wasn't superb but I don't think Team USA had major breakdowns there. Team USA actually got hurt on off-ball curls nearly as much as pick/rolls.

This is not a surprise as NBA players don't see that type of off-ball movement in the U.S.--lots more moving parts to deal with in FIBA ball. Brazil ran a lot of continuity sets, like the ones Magnano's Argentina teams used to perplex Team USA with. It's not just pick/roll that befuddles Team USA, it's the off-ball action and screens coming from all angles. You will see a lot of variations on Princeton sets or flex sets in this tourney. Constant offensive motion is a staple of int'l basketball. Offenses with reads, counterplays, and counterplays to the counterplays.

If we were preparing Team USA for what to expect in this tourney, we'd tell them that it's like playing the Jazz many times. And if you ask NBA players about defending the Jazz offense, we're sure most would say it's not fun.
(More on this topic as it relates to Team USA, from '07.)

Sure, Team USA could have played the pick/roll somewhat better, but Marcelo Huertas was just making good plays. Don't think the pick/roll defense was that bad. Huertas did a good job going away from the screen, which caused problems.

One mistake was Team USA going over the top of screens involving Huertas. Huertas is generally not a great outside shooter (though he did shot the 3pt. well in Spain).

Brazil is a team that likes to push the pace like Team USA, and they have the athletes to do it. But Brazil should have been more judicious in when to push in transition on Monday. Bad decisions in transition were directly turned into easy scoring opportunities for Team USA a handful of times (USA got 8-10 easy points this way).

Seems like every player in this game mixed some good with some bad. Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose were key contributors for Team USA once again, but they were far from perfect.

Durant led Team USA once again with 27 pts, 10 rebs, 3 stls & 4-of-6 3PA. KD bailed out his squad numerous times but also took some curious shots and committed seven TOs. Derrick Rose was effective with 11 pts, 5 rebs, 4 stls. Thought Rose made some nice plays in transition, but he had 4 TOs of his own.

Chauncey Billups had quite the Jekyll/Hyde game. Yes, Billups took many questionable shots throughout the game--some were awful--and the offense often had little continuity under his direction. But Chauncey was big in the 3rd quarter. He did damage with his dribble, often expertly using hesitations and spins. Billups scored on a nice drive, had a drive-n-dish to Durant for a slam, and drew two fouls on Huertas. His biggest drive came when he went away from the high screen, and absorbed contact from Splitter to finish at the rim. This lay-in gave Team USA a 70-66 lead with :50 secs.

Some have wondered why Coach K stuck with Lamar Odom so much in this game, but we didn't have a major issue with it. Thought Odom's 2nd half play was commendable. We would have played Tyson Chandler a little bit more, but we can understand why Coach K was reluctant to give Kevin Love extended minutes in this game, especially when Tiago Splitter was in the game.

Odom's impact on the defensive end in the 2nd half was an underrated factor. Yes, we understand he committed four TOs and couldn't finish off a lay-in off a spin move late, but Odom made a big impact in the 2nd half, particularly in the 3rd.

Maybe most important of all, Lamar drew two fouls on Splitter in the 3rd, forcing him to sit. One by boxing Tiago out, forcing an over-the-back call, and another by drawing a charge on the baseline.

Odom also guarded the pick/roll well (including a couple hard shows) in the 2nd half and all of his nine rebounds came in the 2nd half. Tiago did make a fairly easy conversion over Odom on the left block but Lamar forced Splitter to go into countermoves on a few other occasions. One was a tough hook shot make off of multiple pivots. Odom finished with 8 pts, 9 rebs & 4 TOs.

Rudy Gay and Andre Iguodala (5 stls, 5 rebs) made some nice contributions in help defense situations. Thought Iggy was active in the 2nd half, rotating well, while Gay had a couple blocks. Both players were nonexistent on the offensive end, as Gay scored 1 point on 0-0 FG in 11 minutes, and Iguodala tallied 3 points on 0-1 FG in 29 minutes.

In general, the USA minute distribution negated the key strength of the team's depth, with all five starters going 29 minutes or more, and five reserves logging five minutes or fewer. The U.S. looked as tired as Brazil by the end. Team USA got just 6 points, 5 rebounds, 0 assists in 39 minutes total from its bench.

Too bad Marcelo Huertas might be remembered for rimming out a crucial FT, as that miss should not take away from the problems he caused for Team USA off the dribble. Set up his teammates nicely, including a sweet behind-the-back pass to Splitter for a smash. But the Caja Laboral guard tried to convert too many difficult passes and tossed up a few poor shots. Huertas finished with 8 pts, 5 assts, 4 rebs & 4 TOs.

S.A. Spur Tiago Splitter had a solid showing on Monday, but like every other key player, he had issues. Tiago did finish with some dunks, scored on a few hooks and snatched rebounds out of his area, especially on offensive end. Splitter's defense was tight as usual and showcased his lateral quickness (forced two TOs on Odom). Did a nice job contesting and was stout in screen action, including a monster block on Westbrook from a standstill. Splitter displayed his passing ability from all over, garnering 3 assists, but also made 2-3 careless passes, which helped him pile up 5 TOs.

We thought Splitter showed exactly why we think he'll be a good fit in San Antonio: he's a quality NBA athlete, especially in terms of lateral movement and body control, who will be able to defend effectively both in the paint and out on the floor. He'll contribute on the boards and also in helping with the ball movement on offense, plus he'll add some opportunity scoring. Tiago's line on Monday was 13 pts on 6-12 FG, 10 rebs (4 off.), 3 assts., 2 stls, & 5 TOs in 30 minutes.

Leandro Barbosa made some tough shots inside and out, and crossed up Iggy with a behind-the-back move that cut the lead to 70-68 late, but he offset his shot-making with a bunch of bad chucks throughout the game. Leandro had 14 pts, 4 rebs, 4 asst, 4 stls, 3 TOs on just 5-18 FG/3-13 3PT.

Athletic SF Marcus Vinicius started in place of Andy Varejao and gave Brazil a nice lift with four 3-pointers. Thought his length bothered Durant a few times on defense as well--he blocked one KD shot.

One key difference in the game was at the FT line. Team USA attempted 23 FTs to Brazil's 8 FTs. A little bit more zone by Brazil might have lessened the difference.

We hate to nitpick Ruben Magnano and his game plan, but we would have mixed in just a little more zone. Brazil played the entirety of the game in man-to-man besides a few possessions at the end of the 1st half. A switch to zone in the mid-part of the 2nd half, when JP Batista, G. Giovannoni & M. Machado were all on the floor, might have helped. The US made a mini-run thanks to dribble penetration during that time. Also, a zone could have possibly cut down the amount of fouls.

Team USA essentially secured the 1-seed from Group B with this win since Iran and Tunisia are of little concern. Brazil still has two challenges ahead with Slovenia and Croatia on the schedule.


At 12:01 AM, Anonymous Arjun Chandrasekhar said...

i saw this game, and i wasn't particularly impressed by team usa. the D wasn't perfect but respectable. my problem was that the halfcourt execution was just so flat out horrible. i can't even count the number of possessions that ended in someone (*cough* chauncey billups) jacking up contested long twos with plenty of time left on the clock. if Durant wasn't playing so spectacularly I'm not sure where the U.S. would be. They really miss Brandon Roy (who would give them someone other than durant that can create GOOD shots) and brook lopez (they desperately need a legit low post presence).

All that being said, I think the U.S. will win by default. seeing what a flop spain is, I think the U.S. can get by with pressure D + Kevin Durant.\

by the way everyone make sure to check out when you're done here!

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