Aug. 19, 2004
A first glance at the final score might make you think that Team USA had an easy 89-79 win over Australia on Thursday. Think again, baby!
Coach Larry Brown's team trailed by 12 points in the first half before rallying. The U.S. men were down entering the final period before closing on a 24-12 run to come away with the victory.
Brown had to be concerned with his team's defense in the first half. Once again, the trifecta was a key element as the Australians built their first half lead by burying 3-pointers (five of their first seven). In fact, Australia entered the game averaging about 70 points per game in the tournament and scored 51 in the first half against the Americans.
The U.S. played much better defense in the second half, getting hands in the faces of the Australian long-range shooters. Still, Australia made 12-of-26 from behind the arc while the Americans were dreadful once again, going 3-of-17.
U.S. center Tim Duncan was dominant inside, finishing with a double-double (18 points, 11 rebounds). Shawn Marion (16 points, eight rebounds) and LeBron James (eight points) were also key contributors as the Americans were able to score in transition off steals more easily in the second half.
Another positive sign for the Americans: just seven turnovers.
Is this the game that turns things around for Team USA? That's hard to say, since next up is a tough Lithuania squad that also can shoot from long distance. Brown's team has to come out with intensity on both ends of the floor.
For those people who don't believe the world has caught up, just look at some of the other results at the Olympics. New Zealand stunned Serbia-Montenegro, while Angola almost upset Puerto Rico, which knocked off America in the Olympic opener. Angola fell by just three points.
There's plenty of basketball still to be played at the Athens Olympics. It appears that the American team is improving and learning to play together, exhibiting better strategy against the zone with good interior passing.
After the opening loss to Puerto Rico and the close calls vs. Greece and Australia, Brown has to be happy that his team has a 2-1 Olympic record. For a good part of the first half on Thursday, it didn't look like the U.S. would get to the winner's circle. But it's a positive sign when a team finds a way to get the job done in the face of adversity.
Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit in the 1970s before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in December 1979. (He's been an ESPN analyst ever since.) Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.