August 16, 2008
Toward the end of his career (his life, really), Who drummer Keith Moon wasn't doing all that well. He was trying to kick the sauce, trying to stave off middle-age by not kicking the sauce, and rapidly gaining weight. He was also trying to uphold his status as the baddest drummer in the land, but Karen Carpenter was hot on his heels. In heels.
Where is this twisted analogy going? Well, according to Who guitarist Pete Townshend, Moon would find himself screaming to himself in frustration after screwing up a drum fill or flourish, shouting "I'M STILL THE BEST (Keith Moon-style) DRUMMER IN THE WORLD!"
The parenthesis were Keith's. He scream the bookends, but offer the qualification sotto voce.
Team USA is still the best (NBA-style) team in the world. Spain is the second-best. And it's not close. And that's why Spain got its rear handed to them on Saturday morning, falling to the US 119-82.
Though Spain won the World Championships in 2006, with the US falling short, the Spanish team had the luxury of working its way toward the top around Team USA. It let outfits like Greece and Argentina - two teams that offer a decidedly un-NBA style of ball - shake down Team USA, with its back-cuts and floor spacing.
Spain tries to kill you with pure, unadulterated talent. They are easily the sum of their very formidable parts. Problem is, USA's sum total is about 37 points better.
LeBron James (18 points, eight assists, five rebounds, four steals in only 28 minutes) and Dwyane Wade (16 points on 8-12 shooting, six rebounds in only 18 minutes) were once again the stars, but boy did they have help. Kobe Bryant shook off a slow start to have a solid game, improvement enough in a tough Olympic run for KB, finishing with 11 points. Carmelo Anthony finally woke up, nailing four three-pointers on six attempts and finishing with 16 points.
Chris Paul was brilliant, 14 points, five rebounds, five steals, eight assists in only 23 minutes; and Deron Williams wasn't far behind with 11 points and three assists in 20 minutes. Meanwhile, Tayshaun Prince responded to a bit of playing time, hitting three of four three-point attempts.
Entering the game as the worst three-point shooting team in the Olympics, Team USA nailed 12 out of 25 attempts. 36 points out of 25 possessions, that'll work. The defense was brilliant, it has been a huge worry of mine for the longest time for Team USA, but I can't possibly try to skip over 119 points in 40 minutes of basketball before talking about the D. And, for once, it wasn't as if Team USA's exalted offensive numbers were coming out of a hyperactive defense.
Sure, Team USA had 16 steals and caused 28 turnovers, but the team's stroke from long-range is what turned this into a laugher ... early. That said, the D was spot-on. When you hold the NBA-veteran troika of Jose Calderon, Jorge Garbajosa, and Juan Carlos Navarro to 1-12 shooting from behind the arc? A shorter arc? Something's working.
So, two tests passed. One with the international types from Greece, and the other featuring the borderline-stateside stylings of Spain. Still getting better with every quarter. Still working to be able to shout about being the best team in the world, with no qualification necessary.
It's been fun to watch.