No one gave Finland much chance to challenge the United States in Saturday's opener of the FIBA World Cup of Basketball in Bilbao, Spain. Yet it's doubtful that anyone expected the domination to reach such an extreme so early in an extremely comfortable 114-55 win.
After an already impressive 31-16 first quarter in which Finland looked out of the game after eight minutes, Team USA turned the second quarter into one of the most dominant periods in history. The 29-2 advantage tells a story in itself, but the specifics are even worse. For instance, Finland failed to convert a field goal over the entire 10 minutes, getting just two free throws from Teemu Rannikko at the 6:25 mark. Take a look at this shot chart:
Finland managed to create a few open shots, but the length and quickness of the U.S. defense clearly flustered their opponents, a wild-card selection for the tournament. Team USA has so much talent that they overwhelm most teams they face, but this game was a different story altogether. Finland, even with several quality players on the roster, didn't look like they belonged on the same court.
Their offensive struggles will earn the most headlines, but their troubles carried over to the defensive end, too. In this highlight-reel dunk from Derrick Rose (via EOB), Finland conceded an open lane to the basket that may have reminded the Bulls star of an All-Star Game:
Things got substantially better for the Finns in the second half, but a 54-37 disadvantage still led them to a 59-point loss. They will look to bounce back against Ukraine on Sunday in their second-group game.
Team USA will obviously be pleased with such an overwhelming victory, but the relatively low quality of competition ensures that it will be seen as little more than business as usual. They should face a tougher test on Sunday vs. Turkey, but the fact of the matter is that the Americans likely won't see a real challenge for at least another week.
That's not to say that head coach Mike Krzyzewski and his staff will be pleased with everything they saw out of their team. While 59 percent shooting from the field, 18 steals, and eight players with at least nine points looks great, Team USA also turned it over 19 times and shot just 6-of-18 from the three-point line. Those numbers will have to improve against the best teams in the tournament.
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