USA! USA! USA!
The World Championships began with an interesting little game for our beloved U.S. squad. There was an equal amount of good and bad, so let's separate the two into fun little catergories.
- Dwight Howard. He's a monster. It was a good thing they brought him early in this one, because he was the only player doing anything in the 1st quarter for the U.S. Howard was all over the place rebounding, blocking shots, dunking and really just being his phenomenal self. It disturbs me that he's only 20 and is going to get so much better than this.
- Carmelo Anthony. He continues to be the scoring leader on this club. I don't know if it's playing with D-Wade and LeBron or if 'Melo is just feeling it, but he's doing everything right. He got hot offensively in the 2nd quarter doing a little bit of everything, including knocking down open three's, using a wicked post up game on undersized defenders and finishing in transition.
- Coach K's second half lineup. I've been wondering since the exhibition games, when Coach K used somewhere around 50 different lineup combinations, what would happen when these games actually counted. Would K find the right combination of guys to put away a tough opponent? Well, we got our answer in this one. Leading by six to start the second half, the U.S. came out with the following lineup: Wade, Anthony, James, Paul and Howard. In about two minutes, they were up by 16 and the game was headed to garbage time. Coach K really inserted the dagger by bringing the same five on the floor to start the 4th quarter. I've been saying all along that any combo of James, Wade and Anthony on the floor is going to be nearly impossible to beat, and Coach K put them all out there at the same time to swing the momentum in this one.
- 3-point shooting. The U.S. got some strong shooting from Joe Johnson, Kirk Hinrich and Carmelo Anthony. Johnson and Hinrich are going to have constant wide open looks in this tournament, and they knocked them down pretty consistently tonight.
- Perimeter defense. Frankly, I should put this in THE HORRIBLE. Right now, the U.S. should be very happy that Tony Parker is missing the tournament. They made Carlos Arroyo look like, well, international Carlos Arroyo tonight. He killed them in the Olympics, and he killed them tonight. Chris Paul and Kirk Hinrich are going to have to step things up on the defensive end, because with so many other defenders gambling, if they get beaten on the outside then that's going to lead to a lot of easy buckets. In addition, you can tell this team has only been together for three weeks when you watch them play the pick and roll. Arroyo and Daniel Santiago looked like John Stockton and Karl Malone out there.
- Dwayne Wade. Look, no one likes D-Wade more than me. I think he's the best all-around player in the NBA. But, he wasn't good tonight. I'm just going to end it there. I don't like writing negatively about him.
- Bigs. Other than Dwight Howard, I'm not even sure who the "bigs" are on this team. Elton Brand? Chris Bosh? Brad Miller? I guess. I don't remember seeing Brad Miller on the floor, and Bosh and Brand didn't stand out much. These guys will get a big test tonight against Yao Ming. Can they handle it?
So, there you have it. A big opening game victory of the U.S. They looked impressive when they moved the ball offensively, and they have a ton of work on the defensive end. I still think they're the most enjoyable team to watch that I've seen in a long time.
Bring on China!!