In a heavily anticipated exhibition between the two top-ranked teams in the world, Spain came out and capitalized on the United States’ sloppy play. They began the game on a 10-3 run and finished the quarter with a 22-13 lead. Indicative of Team USA’s struggles: Kobe Bryant uncharacteristically air balled a jumper and traveled.
Spain moved the ball around well and the Calderon-Ibaka pick-and-roll led to a couple of good looks for Ibaka at the rim. As a result of Team USA’s inattentive pick-and-roll defense, Ibaka finished the half with 16 points on 6-of-6 shooting.
Their success was mitigated a bit in the second quarter. Carmelo Anthony put up 23 points in the second frame, including five 3-pointers. He scored from every area of the floor; his strength allowed him to finish at the rim against the Spaniard’s tough interior defense. The Americans led by eight at the half in spite of their early struggles.
LeBron James excelled at getting inside the teeth of Spain’s 2-3 zone as a certified zone buster. James hadn’t done much for awhile but as a testament to his ability and our exorbitant expectations, he still poured in 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting.
There were stretches where the zone, which Spain used extensively, stagnated the United States offense. In these instances, it would be a direct result of over dribbling — an essential tenet of a poor possession. A zone harps on poor shot selection which should, theoretically, happen reasonably often against a team filled with a bunch of confident scorers. It isn’t a full proof method of attack but it’s a defensive tactic that could benefit Spain should these two teams meet again in London.
Spain staved off a couple of rallies and remained within 13 points with six minutes to play. Team USA immediately went on a 7-0 run as they put the finishing touches on a prototypical victory over their fiercest competition. The final margin: 22 points.
Whether the inclusion of Marc Gasol, sidelined with a shoulder injury, will significantly improve their chances in London is up for debate. But we shouldn’t expect another blowout next time around. Well, if, there is a next time around.