In the grand scheme of things for the United States men's basketball team, today's 97-76 win over Angola wont mean much. It was just another necessary step on their way to the medal round. If you watched the game closely though, there are several warning signs that should give Coach K and his staff some concern.
The Americans looked like they were lacking energy and focus throughout most of the first-half, as the Angolans looked like they simply wanted the game more. As I mentioned in my halftime notes, LeBron James was ultimately the person to give the U.S. the jolt they needed, especially on defense.
In order to win the gold medal, this team is going to have play more consistently at the defensive end. During this game, the U.S. defense was spotty at best, allowing Angola to get numerous open looks at the basket. Maybe the team just hasn't found their groove yet, but the only three players I've seen play solid defense at all times during the first two games have been James, Tayshaun Prince and Dwyane Wade. Speaking of Wade, he had another great game, pouring in 19 points and grabbing five rebounds. (I'm sure somewhere down in Miami, Pat Riley and company are smiling about the possibility of having a healthy Wade again this season.)
The Americans will face their first true test in their next game against Greece. If you'll recall, Greece is the team that beat the U.S. during the 2006 World Championships. In my mind, the key to that game is going to be the play of Dwight Howard. The big center from Orlando is the most dominat post-presence at these Games, and should be able to have his way down low against the Greeks. He's got to be more assertive when calling for the ball though. Howard was 6-for-6 from the floor against Angola and will need to have the same performance if the U.S. wants a "W" against the Greeks.
Until then, Krzyzewski has got to light a fire under his team, because if they come out against a good team, the way they started against Angola, Team U.S.A. will be in for another rude awakening.
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