When it comes to Olympic basketball there isn’t a lot of doubt about who is going to take the gold; barring a series of Paul George-style freak accidents to half the team the USA squad is penciled in for the top spot and I don’t think anybody doubts that they’ll get it. This is little more than a formality for them, with little in the way of drama and their only real competition being previous incarnations of team USA. At this point the only thing that seems unclear is what their eventual point differential will be.
Team USA kicked off their road to the medal round tonight against a Chinese squad that they had already beat by a combined 99 points in two pre-Olympic exhibition games and this one went about as well as the other two, with the Americans running away with the game early and cruising to a 119-62 victory. The game played out more or less exactly how you’d expect, with the length of the American guards and the strength of their forwards allowing them to control the action all over the court. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving hit a combined 9-13 three pointers to keep the defense stretched out, allowing DeAndre Jordan and DeMarcus Cousins to dominate the paint with the former grabbing 4 offensive rebounds in only 13 minutes and the latter shooting 6-8 and getting the line 5 times for 17 points in 15 minutes. Throw in some full court defensive pressure by Kyle Lowry, Paul George and Jimmy Butler and some transition offense from DeMar DeRozan and you have the makings of an easy blowout.
The Chinese team knew going into this game that they didn’t really have a chance but they approached this game exactly as they should have: a chance to test their mettle against the best in a game that matters to prepare them for their matchups against the rest of the field. They could easily have phoned it in but they continued to try to play their game throughout, running their sets consistently and trying new plays out of timeouts even when the game had already been out of reach for quite some time. If this game was little more than a high profile scrimmage they approached it in the way that will benefit them the most going forward.
The Raptors participants in this game did exactly what you would expect of them. Lowry pressured the ball on defense and charged at the rim with reckless abandon, getting two steals and 10 free throws in his 13 minutes. As someone who loves gritty basketball players I’m very pleased that Lowry can’t seem to play without giving maximum effort all the time, but as someone who wants to enjoy Lowry playing at this level for a few more years I cringe a little bit every time I see him go crashing into a defender during the offseason. That’s a minor concern, though – if we’re going to consider that a problem it’s what we’d call one of those good problems.
Like Lowry, DeRozan went out there and did what he did best, primarily by attacking the rim with his leaping ability. He gave us the most DeMar DeRozan sequence possible when he caught an alley oop, lost his man on defense for an open three, drew two defensive fouls on one offensive possession, bricked an outside shot on the next possession and then almost caused an international incident by doing this to young Chinese PG Zhao Jiwei:
This all happened in just over one minute, giving the world a quick overview of everything DeRozan is about. If you liked watching the Raptors last season, then you had to like what you saw from their representatives on Team USA tonight because it was everything you’ve come to expect from them.
Next up on the schedule for the Raptors enthusiasts will be Jonas Valanciunas and the Lithuanian team taking on the Brazilian squad on Sunday at 1:15 P.M followed by the USA vs. Venezuela on Monday at 6 P.M. For the Canadians out there who aren’t sure where they can catch the Lithuanian games the CBC has had free HD streams of all of the basketball games that have not been aired on a major network. Check for the Lithuania game here.Follow @raptorsrepublic