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Clamping down (cont.)

Posted: Sunday August 27, 2006 1:03PM; Updated: Sunday August 27, 2006 1:03PM
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Nowitzki shot 38 percent in the three games against Los Angeles Clipper teams with Brand in the lineup last season, but two of those games saw him being guarded by defensive stalwart Quinton Ross for some stretches. Still, a slimmed-down EB more than held his own, as the two MVP candidates basically played to a draw. Battier should help, but Dirk averaged 31.3 points (on 51 percent shooting) mainly against Battier in the opening round of the playoffs last year versus the Grizzlies.

Germany's strength is its rebounding game, but with either Bosh or Howard on the floor alongside Brand, they should be able to ably check Nowitzki and still keep an eye on the glass.

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The little guys are helping in that area, as Hinrich's 4.2 rebounds per game ranks third on Team USA behind Bosh and Howard. Hinrich was everywhere in that second quarter against the Aussies, creating havoc in the passing lanes, forcing opponents into bad passes that invariably ended up as a turnover a few moves later -- one that would sometimes see Hinrich gobble up the loose ball. As good as Chris Paul (4.8 assists for every one turnover so far in the tournament) has been on offense, Hinrich has been on defense -- and nowhere was this more evident than in Team USA's thorough domination of the Aussies in the second quarter on Sunday.

On the other end of the court, it was business as usual. Carmelo Anthony managed 20 points in 22 minutes, getting to the line 11 times and nailing nine freebies. Dwyane Wade didn't get to the charity stripe, but he still worked his way towards 15 points off of 12 shots (in 19 minutes), while Joe Johnson came alive for a solid 18 points. The ball movement was sound, with 24 assists on 41 field goals, though LeBron James (five points, four assists in 22 minutes) continued to struggle without the rock in his hands.

Still, overall, the 40-point conquest saw Krzyzewski's bunch showing definite on-court growth, in all the areas (defense, defense and defense as well) where they needed it the most. How this translates between the team game the Aussies supplied and the Dirk-o-centric offense Germany offers remains to be seen, but you have to like Team USA's chances.

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