Team USA will begin play in the medal round today at 5:15 p.m. EST, taking on Australia in their quarterfinal game. The United States finished pool play with a 5-0 record earning the 1-seed from Pool A while Australia had a record of 3-2 and got the 4-seed from Pool B.
The United States looked great in their first three games then were brought back down to reality after that. Their 83-point win over Nigeria may have made them relax a little too much and it showed in a lack of defensive intensity vs. Lithuania and in the first half vs. Argentina.
The U.S. would beat Argentina in their last game of pool play after leading 60-59 at half time. They came out in the second half a different team on defense, much more active with a lot of energy and blew out Argentina in the third quarter, 42-17.
Team USA’s last two games served as a wakeup call for them and we should see the more focused team that dominated Argentina in the second half going forward in the medal round.
Australia is led by San Antonio Spurs point guard Patty Mills who averaged 20.2 points per game in pool play. He has been a kind of one man show for Australia though and took a lot of shots to get those points.
Mills hit one of the biggest shots in Australian basketball history in their last game, drilling a buzzer-beating 3-pointer vs. Russia to give Australia the upset 82-80 win.
Beyond Mills, Australia will have a very tough time matching up with the U.S. They are without Andrew Bogut who suffered an injury last year in the NBA. They feature no other familiar NBA names on the roster.
Kevin Durant led Team USA in scoring in pool play averaging 18.6 points per game to go with 5.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists. He shot .606 percent from downtown as well including going 8-of-10 vs. Argentina.
Carmelo Anthony was second on the team averaging 17.4 points per game and shot .600 percent from three. Anthony was highlighted of course by his U.S. Olympic record 37-point performance vs. Nigeria.
LeBron James essentially coasted in Team USA’s first three games before turning it on in the last two. LeBron came alive late vs. Lithuania, scoring nine of Team USA’s final 12 points to finish with 20. LeBron then scored 18 vs. Argentina and had a huge third quarter.
The likes of Durant, Anthony and LeBron will be impossible for Australia to match up with. Team USA should do a very good job containing Mills as well with Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook.
Australia has surprised somewhat in the Olympics so far so don’t expect them to roll over and die. They will fight hard against the U.S. but it’s hard to imagine it mattering much at all.
If the U.S. wins, they will play the winner of Argentina and Brazil who play before them at 3:00 p.m. EST.