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Australia, Good Game Or More Of The Same?

It's been so easy, perhaps too easy, through the first five games for U.S. men's team. It won by an average of 32.2 points and its closest game was a 21-point win over Angola that wasn't nearly as competitive as the final score would suggest. As the U.S. enters the single-elimination medal round against Australia on Wednesday, Chris Paul was asked if he wishes the team had been tested at least one time.

"Naw," Paul said, laughing. "I actually thought about that today. Why would you want a close game? If you don't have to have one, why?"

Australia is the only team to hang with the U.S. this summer. When the teams met during an exhibition in Shanghai earlier this month, the Aussies played without Milwaukee Bucks center Andrew Bogut yet were within seven points midway through the fourth quarter before losing 87-76.


Remember me, mates? (REUTERS/Sergio Moraes)

It was the closest thing to a scare that Team USA has faced the past two past summers, as the team was even more dominant in the FIBA Americas Tournament. The U.S. had an off-night shooting, Australia managed to play physically without their biggest player, and Paul had trouble containing speedy Australian point guard Patrick Mills.

"We taking that as motivation," Carmelo Anthony said. "A lot of people saying Australia had a chance of beating us, and they played us close. It should be a different story" on Wednesday.

The win-or-you-can't-contend medal round format places the U.S. in a position where it will face a desperate team for the first time this tournament. The Americans never faced a team that was fighting to make the quarterfinals, with their last two games coming against Spain - a team some suggested was willing to throw away a game to avoid Argentina in the semifinals - and Germany - a team that failed to qualify and already had its bags packed.

"You'll see something different in an opponent that you haven't seen in pool play. And we need to be prepared for that," U.S. Coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "I have nervous excitement. I'm not nervous that we're not going to be ready, but there is an anxiousness."

US Managing Director Jerry Colangelo has been impressed with the way the team he assembled has dominated, but he is quick to remind people, "The first five don't even count. Now this is where it really starts."

"I think the intensity even builds up from this point on," Colangelo said. "We've been talking about being on a mission and there are lot of things being said and they are all wonderful, but they don't mean a thing unless we finish the job. We are going to face a tough Australia team. They played us pretty well just a couple of weeks ago. They'll be up for our game for certain."

Australia is feeling confident after ending pool play with a 31-point victory over Lithuania, the top seed from Group B. The Aussies will also have Bogut, who struggled early in this tournament, but has averaged 22.5 points the past two games.

Paul said the game against Australia a few weeks ago doesn't matter: "This here is a totally different situation. We're going to approach it different. This now is the medal round. It's not an exhibition. It's now or never."

By Michael Lee  |  August 19, 2008; 4:42 PM ET
 
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Comments

The first Aussie match was a warm-up for Team USA, they were still getting used to playing together. The Aussies will be Kangaroo meat when this is over. Gooday mates!

Posted by: Wizzy | August 20, 2008 5:54 AM | Report abuse

Put another shrimp on the barbie!

The Aussies are done: skewered, BBQ'ed and served cold.

Posted by: Rook | August 20, 2008 8:53 AM | Report abuse

I'm not predicting an upset or anything, but this USA team hasn't had a physically challeging game that they have had to survive some foul trouble yet.

So far no one has manged to slow us down and get us in the kind of pace that has seemed to confound us in the past. Maybe no one can, but if they do, we will need to see a degree of patience on offense that has seemed to be-devil us in past years.

This team's commitment to defense has seemed to be the difference from past USA Allstar teams. The ability to over play passes and force turn overs for easy baskets been a key to blowout victories.

We have one of the most athletic group of wing players in history with LeBron, Kobe, and D. Wade just smoothering guys defensively. But the second time around some of these teams will adjust their passing and sets and USA will have to adjust and prepare for more grind it out style games.

The real test of this team will be the ability to win when they can't entirely dictate the pace to the other team. Can this team win ugly?

Posted by: GM | August 20, 2008 8:56 AM | Report abuse

USA can't hit their 3's. They're not shooting a good percentage from the Free Throw line - but they built a 30 point lead late in the 3rd quarter, and lead it by 28 after Three periods.

Like I said, the Aussies are toast.

Posted by: Rook | August 20, 2008 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Team USA is too-deep, too-strong, and too-fast. These other teams can hang short-term, but the pattern has been the same in every game, they can't handle our D, and we have too-many ways to beat you with our athleticism.

Posted by: Wizzy | August 20, 2008 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Not competitive at all.

Does anyone know if these games will be rebroadcast at anytime? It stinks having to work when the games are on.

Posted by: G Diddy | August 20, 2008 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Can this team win ugly?
Posted by: GM | August 20, 2008 8:56 AM

Flat out NO. And I know what you're trying to convey, but I don't think there's any team in the Olympics that can dictate tempo to the US team.

When they're not hitting their 3's, they are dominating inside with Howard and James. When they're not doing that, they're getting out on the break.

You mentioned one key: Defense

Another key is Rebounding... But it's not just Dwight Howard, Bosh and James hitting the boards.... Dwayne Wade and the guards are also contributing there.

Perhaps the biggest key is the US playmakers, especially Chris Paul and Deron Williams (but to a lesser extent Dwayne Wade and LeBron James as well). They are, far and away, the best in the World at setting up their teammates - and a big reason the US is unstoppable right now.

Posted by: Rook | August 20, 2008 10:43 AM | Report abuse

The key is that talent on the wings, I don't know if any team in the world has the talent to compete with those guys.

It's been devastating when D. Wade comes in off the bench, he's become a terror in this tourney.

The problem we've had in the past has always been when a team gets the USA into a typical Euro League game. Not saying that I've seen a team with the talent to matchup and do it. But that's what someone's going to try at some point.

Posted by: GM | August 20, 2008 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Hey ! We got a censor. Good job, WaPo.

Posted by: mark | August 20, 2008 11:41 AM | Report abuse

The Aussies talked smack and got their butts kicked. I guess next time they should try not to wake the bear. Let him sleep. U.S.A. !!!!

Posted by: mark | August 20, 2008 11:45 AM | Report abuse

just some observation:

Kobe showed up big time this game but it's clear that LeBron is the best offensive player in the world. He's as unstoppable driving over there only taking two steps as he is here when he takes 3 or 4.
Dwayne Wade is close to Kobe for the title of best player overall in the world. His defense puts him ahead of Lebron and he's just a tick behind Kobe offensively. Great team. Bosh is surprisingly decent for this team, too. As I suspected, the era of the olympic behemoth in the middle is over. With other centers stepping outside for threes, it's best to have a mobile big man who can get out and challenge shooters and slide on pick and rolls.
Shaq from 6-7 years ago would not have been the answer, Shaq from his first couple years in the league would have been.
Deron Williams is good.
Chris Paul is ok in this style of play but definitely more suited to the NBA.
Antawn would have been a decent player for this team and could have contributed.
Ditto for Gilbert.
Why is Michael Redd getting no time? He should be part of the rotation even if it's just a few minutes per game. Instead of paul and Deron together, put him in there.

Posted by: mark | August 20, 2008 11:53 AM | Report abuse

no way boozer should be on this team!! simply the duke connection!

Posted by: jojo | August 20, 2008 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Maglore would be a nice fit for this team..they could use his toughness!!

Posted by: jojo | August 20, 2008 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Hell, they could have picked someone else because Boozer is hardly even getting in the games even with them blowing everyone out. Why is that?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 20, 2008 1:27 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure Coach K and Jerry Colangelo are kicking themselves for not having Gilby on the team. They sure could have used him for Beijing.

Posted by: DC Man88 | August 20, 2008 2:38 PM | Report abuse

dcmann88

whos your team? do they not have their own blog? you spend alot of time here for someone who hates the wiz

Posted by: jojo | August 20, 2008 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Hey jojo, where's K-Ci?

Posted by: DC Man88 | August 20, 2008 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Clewiston (DCman88) your obsession with Gil is just pathetic.

Posted by: your consience | August 21, 2008 12:43 AM | Report abuse

And your obsession with my critique of Gilby is even more pathetic.

It's one thing to dispute my Gilby statements with valid counterarguments, but you don't have any because none exist.

Posted by: DC Man88 | August 21, 2008 8:36 AM | Report abuse

GA is coming back from an injury and couldn't have played in the Olympics anyway, so the whole argument is moot. If if he had been in the mix, I definitely would have taken him over Michael Redd, a one-dimensional spot-up shooter who hasn't contributed that much. However, if I had to pick a single player to add to this team and make it even more overpowering at both ends, however, I'd have taken Kevin Garnett instead of Carlos Boozer. Kobe may have been the MVP and had great stats, but to me KG was the biggest impact player in the league at both ends of the court last season.

Posted by: John Brisker | August 21, 2008 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Again, this is all moot, but here's why I would have taken a healthy GA over Michael Redd:

The U.S. team gets most of its points in transition, and GA is vastly more explosive in transition than Redd.

Redd is a pretty good spot-up shooter, but GA has better range and can pull up off the dribble.

GA not only can break down his man off the dribble, but he's phenomenal at splitting double-teams and slipping between seams of a zone. Teams have to focus on him when he's on the court. That potentially would create a lot of open shot opportunities for his teammates.

GA isn't a good one-on-one defender, but he's probably no worse than Redd. But he does get a lot of steals, and the U.S. team thrives on forcing turnovers and scoring in transition.

Posted by: John Brisker | August 21, 2008 9:45 AM | Report abuse

"Again, this is all moot, but here's why I would have taken a healthy GA over Michael Redd:

The U.S. team gets most of its points in transition, and GA is vastly more explosive in transition than Redd.

Redd is a pretty good spot-up shooter, but GA has better range and can pull up off the dribble.

GA not only can break down his man off the dribble, but he's phenomenal at splitting double-teams and slipping between seams of a zone. Teams have to focus on him when he's on the court. That potentially would create a lot of open shot opportunities for his teammates.

GA isn't a good one-on-one defender, but he's probably no worse than Redd. But he does get a lot of steals, and the U.S. team thrives on forcing turnovers and scoring in transition.

Posted by: John Brisker | August 21, 2008 9:45 AM "

You're right, it is moot.

Not only is Redd basically a nonfactor in USA's success, Gilby would be a nonfactor also.

Posted by: DC Man88 | August 21, 2008 8:19 PM | Report abuse

.

Posted by: Alex | August 26, 2008 7:27 AM | Report abuse

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