Swarming defense, inside play too much for Chinese
Posted: Sunday August 20, 2006 11:49AM; Updated: Sunday August 20, 2006 11:49AM
Dwight Howard not only scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, but his tough play around the basket forced the Chinese team into foul trouble.
Koichi Kamoshida /Getty Images
I think we've discovered the paradigm. Predictably, it includes a swarming defense, quick post-ups, and strong finishes in the paint.
For 40 strong minutes against China on Sunday morning, the Americans imposed their will -- forcing the action rather than adapting to their opponent's style of play. They forced turnovers, took the best available shot instead of over-passing and succeeded in defining the terms of conflict in the 31-point win. Dwyane Wade finished with 26 points, leading his team, seemingly without a single play being called for him. It was a dominant, impressive performance against an improving and resilient Chinese squad.
That resiliency probably kept China from a 50-point loss. Though they were continually dunked on, roughed up and outclassed by Team USA, the Chinese kept their wits about them. Yao Ming, still not fully in shape after recovering from toe surgery, paced his team with 21 points before fouling out. Wang Shipeng impressed offensively, while Yi Jianlian (a 7-footer and likely lottery pick in next year's NBA Draft) showed a willingness to mix it up defensively (with, er, mixed results) alongside a solid touch on the offensive end. This is a dangerous team from behind the arc, Yao has rounded into an exemplary team leader, and they'll only get better once they improve their ball-handling.
But it was that sub-standard ball-handling that limited their chances to make a competitive go of it against Team USA. The Americans have forced 59 turnovers in 80 minutes of play in two games (including an Aug. 7 exhibition) against China, with Chris Paul, LeBron James, Wade and Kirk Hinrich providing a devastating bit of ball-hawking in the open and half court. Their length, ability to anticipate, and quick feet kept China from developing any sense of rhythm on offense.
Better yet, James and Dwight Howard showed increased awareness in their defensive rotations -- though they were undersized in the face of an imposing Chinese frontline, their athletic ability and upper body strength negated whatever height advantage China boasted. This is great news for U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski, as he'll be relying on those two (along with Duke products Elton Brand and Shane Battier) to cover all angles against heavyweights like Argentina, France, and Serbia and Montenegro -- three teams that love to cut back door and move off the ball.