Tony Parker, tasked with attacking Team USA’s aggressive defense from the onset, maneuvered around the numerous amount of land mines impeding his path, unleashing his patented floater and finishing at the rim through contact. Parker was instrumental in France’s first quarter, scoring six points in the process. Yannick Bokolo’s improbable 3-pointer cut the United States lead to one point.
But it was all for naught. The United States eventually rekindled their pressure defense in the ensuing period that initially stymied the French offense in the first quarter. The Americans were propelled by 3-pointers from Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Chris Paul after the team collectively missed their first six 3-point attempts. France responded with a spirited 7-2 run only to be negated by a Kevin Durant 3-pointer and couple of Kevin Love buckets.
This is what makes playing the United States, much less defeating them, a seemingly impossible task — they are essentially impervious to any significant run. Their elite ability keeps them grounded, rooted in the faith that their talent will prevail, and thus, they aren’t deterred from fleeting rallies. Team USA finished the half with a 16-point lead despite shooting 40% from the field. But, in light of their inefficiency, they assisted on nearly 83% of their shots.
France didn’t lack any opportunities either. The officials were, for lack of a better word, generous to the French cause as they reached the line 20 times in the first half. Their seven misses, though, will resonate for awhile. Les Bleus also didn’t capitalize on their perimeter shooting, converting on 1-of-11 of their attempts; though, to be fair, they aren’t known for their shooting. Their strengths reside in their talent and scoring ability.
Their mistakes, while not fatal, made their lives considerably harder in the second half — where Bryant, Durant and James eventually took over. Between a couple of 3-pointers from Bryant and Durant, an authoritative dunk off a well-timed alley hoop or a plain unfair matchup between Mickael Gelabale and James, there wasn’t any time to make a timely run.
The Americans first plan of action was to alleviate Parker’s quickness which would render the opposition of their most potent shot creator. Parker finished with four points in the second and third periods before Vince Collet eventually waved the white flag. Once they devoured pick-and-rolls and filled Parker’s path with obstacles — the FIBA rule allowing teams to load the paint without penalty made this a lot easier — the Les Bleus’ attack slowly depreciated to the point where it was just laughable.
In a minor miracle France matched Team USA’s point total in the fourth quarter. Bear in mind that by then head coach Mike Krzyzewski employed his garbage time lineups. But, at that point, it’s a silver lining. An inconsequential one but still one nonetheless.
Not many teams are lucky enough to say that.