The United States will play their first Olympic Basketball game Sunday, July 29 at 9:30 a.m. EST against France.
The United States prepared for the Olympics with five exhibition games and won them all by an average of 26.6 points.
Kevin Durant averaged 17.6 points per game and shot .552 percent from three in those exhibition games. LeBron James led the team averaging 18.6 points to go along with 4.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists.
Team USA is the favorite to win the gold medal but France is one of the teams expected to give them a decent game.
France is led by San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker who is coming off one of the best NBA seasons of his career in which he led the Spurs to the best record in the NBA and a Western Conference Finals appearance.
Parker is joined by a few other NBA products in Boris Diaw, Nicolas Batum, Kevin Seraphin and Nando De Colo who should make up the starting five for them.
France is ranked 12th in the world and the last time they played the U.S. in the Olympics was back in 2000 in Sydney for the gold medal game which the United States won 85-75.
The blatant weakness for Team USA is their lack of size. They start Tyson Chandler at center and then have only two other legit bigs on their bench in Kevin Love and Anthony Davis, each who didn’t play much at all in their exhibition games.
Instead, head coach Mike Krzyzewski has elected to play smaller lineups consisting of LeBron and Durant at power forward and center a lot of times. This has its advantages on offense but disadvantages on defense. The consensus still is that the United States are talented enough that this size disadvantage shouldn’t stop them from winning gold.
France isn’t a particularly big team either so the United States should really have no trouble handling them. Parker will surely be the main point of emphasis for the U.S. defense which should be more than capable of slowing him down with Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams in their backcourt.
In Pool A, France has a good shot at coming out of pool play as the 2-seed. Argentina and Lithuania will be the other two teams competing for that spot. Finishing pool play as the 2-seed would mean avoiding the U.S. in the medal round until a potential gold medal game.
France is often overrated and seems to underachieve in international competition. This will be revealed when they play the U.S. as the game has no business remaining close for too long.
The question only will be which U.S. player steps up and has a big game. We’ve seen Durant and LeBron do it consistently in the exhibition games as well as Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony.
It will also be interesting to see if the U.S. struggles at all if they see any zone from France. That will be the main defensive tactic thrown at the United States by other countries and the U.S. could be contained to some degree playing against a 2-3 zone.
The United States attempted 27.6 threes per game in their five exhibition games so they aren’t shy to toss up treys at will. In the closest of those exhibition games against Brazil, the U.S. went just 6-for-24 on threes and shot just over 40 percent from the field in the game.
A cold shooting night from three is definitely a key ingredient for a potential upset against Team USA. Again though, it really shouldn’t matter against France. The United States are fully prepared to roll to a victory in their first Olympic game of 2012.