Redemption Doesn't Come In Threes
The so-called Redeem Team has won its first two games by a combined 52 points, but the performances against China and Angola would've been more dominant if the Americans could've only figured out a way to solve that tricky international three-point line. The U.S. is shooting an abysmal 26.6 percent (12-for-45) from beyond the arc in the Olympics, missing 16 of 21 against Angola after missing 17 of 24 against China.
Angola played zone for most of the night, challenging the U.S. to beat it from deep - better yet, 20 feet, 6 inches, which is almost two feet closer than the NBA three-pointer. The Americans tried to step up to the challenge but repeatedly missed good looks.
Fortunately, they haven't found a team that can stop them in dribble penetration and their aggressive, trapping defense has created turnovers and led to easy fastbreak, slam dunk opportunities. But at some point, you have to assume that the U.S. will have to make a few more from long distance - especially if they want to keep taking them.
"All of these guy can hit shots. But, it's like a real good hitter in baseball, sometimes you don't get hits and all of a sudden, you break out," U.S. Coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "My feeling is as long as it doesn't interfere with how they are playing defense, their energy, they just have to keep shooting. I don't think we're taking bad shots. I think we're taking shots that these guys can hit, and we still score 100 points. But if we start hitting threes, we are going to be a lot better."
The U.S. has struggled from three-point range in its past three international competitions, primarily because those previous teams didn't have any designated jump shooters. This team has Michael Redd, who is expected to fill the role as this team's Chris Mullin, Reggie Miller or Ray Allen - the respective primary outside threats for the 1992, 1996 and 2000 Olympic gold medal-winning teams.
So far, Redd just 3-for-9 from three-point range - and he leads the team in three-pointers made. He isn't close to being the leader in the attempts. That belongs to Kobe Bryant, who has taken 15 three pointers in the first two games. Guess how many he's made? One.
Maybe Bryant is just doing another Michael Jordan impersonation. Huh, you ask? I went back and looked at the three-point shooting for past Olympic teams and I wanted to see Jordan's three-point percentage. Believe it not, Jordan shot 21.1 percent (4 of 19). That means that Bryant would have to make three of his next four three-point attempts to tie Jordan.
(Another interesting side note about Jordan's performance in Barcelona in 1992. He took a team high 113 shot attempts - 30 more than Charles Barkley, who came in second - and shot 45.1 percent. That was the second-worst field goal percentage of any Dream Teamer. Who was worse? Who else? Christian Laettner, who shot 45 percent.)
Bryant has struggled from long distance since his first three-point attempt against China hit the side of the backboard. "It's been a struggle," Bryant said. "We have to adjust to being spot up shooters. All of us are not acclimated to being spot up shooters. That is something that we have to tweak a little bit and get used to. But when big games come around, they are going to fall."
The U.S. had better hope, especially with Greece on Thursday and Spain on Saturday.
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