Win over Italy wasn't exactly progress for U.S. team
Posted: Wednesday August 23, 2006 12:48PM; Updated: Wednesday August 23, 2006 3:07PM
Dwyane Wade and his teammates struggled in the first half against Italy.
The most frustrating part about Team USA's Wednesday-morning win over Italy wasn't the fact that the Americans had to rally from a 12-point deficit, or that their perimeter defense still needs copious amounts of work, or that they seemed to lose their cool at times in the face of a chippy Italian squad.
What sticks out most in the 94-85 win is that for the first time since coach Mike Krzyzewski's team began its international schedule, it showed no appreciable growth. The players didn't really improve upon their solid showing against Slovenia, and though they've won their bracket of the World Championship tournament, positive steps were not taken.
Sure, Carmelo Anthony was superb, notching a Team USA-record 35 points (29 in the second half). While he managed to ply his scoring trade all over the court, you shouldn't bank on a player getting hot from long distance to bring home the gold.
Dwyane Wade was equally impressive, in the second half at least, easily penetrating the lane and finishing with 26 points. Two players scoring two thirds of their team's points may work in the NBA, where the caste system is in place and all roles are defined by the end of training camp, but not in international play, where new heroes have to step up in every single quarter. Consider Wednesday's win an exception to the rule.
Even more telling was the way Team USA handled its first bit of adversity in non-exhibition play.
Struggling to score in the second quarter against Italy, the U.S. resorted to one-on-one play without much success. On the other end, Italy played the sort of offensive game that Slovenia needlessly abandoned on Tuesday -- milking the shot clock, driving into the lane and kicking out for 20-footers.
Making things worse were the petulant and moody mugs the American kids displayed in the first half, with those frowns refusing to turn upside down until a series of questionable third-quarter calls went Team USA's way.