USA And Russia Advance At World Championships

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In another  impressive showing, Team USA crushed Angola 121-66 at the FIBA World Championship  in Istanbul.  Kevin Durant and Chancey Billups combined for 33 points in the 1st half, leading America to a 65-38 lead at halftime.  Billups finished with 19, while Eric Gordon(5 3′s) and Kevin Durant added 17.

Angola was outclassed from the start, bringing back memories of the 92′ Olympic match-up, more recently the Beijing Games from two years ago, when the Americans claimed big wins against the African champions.  USA played for the first time since their big Group B win over Tunisia on Thursday, and showed no signs of rust in this Eight-Final of the FIBA World Championship.

Team USA used it’s superior athleticism and depth to defeat an opponent, a consistent trend for the them in this tournament.   Defensively, the relentless pressure of Rose,Westbrook,Gordon and Billiups forced 15 turnovers, many leading to easy baskets.

Much is made about half-court execution in the international game, but when you can effectively score in transition and early offense, half-court execution becomes null. The USA thrived in the open floor, and scored at will throughout the entire game.

Though Angola’s zone isn’t to be confused with Spain’s or Turkey’s, the US went 18/38(47.4%) from the 3-point line, by far their best shooting performance of the championships and one off the team record. All 12 American players scored  on 30 assists on 41 baskets.

Though they have some talent, Angola isn’t a true barometer that can gauge where the USA is as a team right now, but today it was. The USA has rolled through this tournament and defeated whomever has been in their way. Angola was over-matched and didn’t put up much fight in the game. USA  had some defensive lapses allowing Angolan F Joakim Gomes to drop 21 points on them.

But there were also several possessions where the USA conducted a clinic on how to trap and rotate.  They are so quick and long on defense, teams have problems getting open looks and finding lanes to penetrate. It sounds tedious but the Americans have to tighten up every detail of their play to keep moving forward, maintaining focus and  improving every game.

Their offensive and defensive cohesiveness is in sync and when their shots are falling, are the team to beat.

Russia will be a tougher test, who have the size to compete with the Americans.

Russia-New Zealand game recap after the jump…

In the other Eight-Final, Russia’s size wore down New Zealand 78-56.  Russia played with a high level of defensive intensity for 40 minutes, making the Tall Blacks work for every bucket. Russian perimeter players Monya, Bykov and Vorontsevich did a great job pressuring the NZL ball-handlers out of their offensive comfort zones.  NZL could only manage 5/24 from the 3-point range, and had a hand in their face with every attempt.

Down low, Sacha Kaun was very effective in the 1st half, blocking several shots and scoring at will in the paint.  Timofey Mozgov was saddled with foul trouble in the first half, but I can see why the Knicks signed him for 10 million dollars. He is 7’1 moves well and uses his body to gain postion in the post. He missed some easy finishes and his footwork is still raw, yet he plays with a passion and intensity on defense that will endear him to Knick fans.  He finished with 14 points and 7 rebounds.

NZL had no one over 6’10 inside and Russia killed them on the glass 48-25.

Andrey Vorontsevich gets my game ball and the 6’9 swingman shot the lights out in the 3rd quarter.  He finished with 18 points(3-3 from 3pt range) and 11 rebounds. A smooth catch and shoot guy who can put it on the floor, Vorontsevich was nails on defense as well, chasing,denying and containing NZL sharpshooter Kirk Penney (21 hard earned points)  for much of the game.

Russia’s size inside intimidated NZL, and caused them to miss several easy layups and inside opportunites.  NZL  fought the entire game, and the play of Vukona and Pero Cameron was nothing short of inspiring.  Vukona’s hustle and energy kept them in it, and Cameron battled down low admirably with the much taller Mozgov and Kaun. Thomas Abercrombie had some explosive plays, and nearly dunked on Sacha Kaun.  Kirk Penney struggled with foul trouble and the Russians did a great job of not letting him get into a fluid rhythm.

Russia was impressive against an inferior team from the weakest region of the tournament. We will see Thursday just how great of a coach David Blatt is, when his Russian team meets the USA.

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