Posted: Sunday August 20, 2006 11:49AM; Updated: Sunday August 20, 2006 11:49AM
Those sorts of teams effectively counter perimeter pressure by flashing their big men to the top of the key and running Princeton-like offenses, but if Team USA is constantly forcing overmatched guards to pick up their dribble, and the rotations are sound, then a title could be in the offing.
Until then, Team USA will have to be satisfied with a throwback win over an improving Chinese squad. Today's conquest approximated the sort of play the 1992 Dream Team showcased -- China had tremendous difficulty even in-bounding the ball, and their most potent weapon at times seemed to be the high-arching, desperation three-point attempt.
Wade may have led the team in scoring, but Howard (16 points, 11 rebounds) was the real star of the win. His ability to seal off defenders and square his shoulders on dunk attempts forced the Chinese team into foul trouble and frustrated Yao to no end. He's easily the quickest big man in the tournament, and he can dominate a game without needing the ball too much -- something that will allow Krzyzewski to keep him on the court for long stretches.
This is hardly great news for Sacramento King center Brad Miller, who was relegated to garbage minutes for the second straight game, but Howard's all-around presence (averaging nine rebounds per in two preliminary contests despite playing less than half the game) could put Team USA over the top.
Up next for Krzyzewski's crew is Slovenia on Tuesday morning (6:30 EST, ESPN2). That squad features five players with NBA experience, and one big man (Uros Slokar) who will be counted on for heavy minutes in his rookie season with the Toronto Raptors in 2006-07. This is a strong defensive outfit that features a deliberate offense and sound outside shooting -- with NBA vets like Beno Udrih and Bostjan Nachbar leading the charge from behind the arc. It will be quite a test for the U.S., which has allowed its opponents to shoot 23 of 47 (49 percent) from behind the arc in the first two games.