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In last Thursday's 92--69 defeat of Greece, the U.S. did a much better job of communicating as the Greeks set their screens. For the final two minutes of the second quarter the Americans gave Greece a different look with a switching man-to-man, and once even sprang a trap. Meanwhile, across the back line the U.S. big men took advantage of the freedom to linger in the lane, clogging up the middle with a zone that flummoxed the Greeks on those rare occasions when their guards could turn the corner. "We made them run their offense 30 feet from the basket," says Chris Bosh, the post man who at times seemed to be guarding dribbler and screener at the same time.
Krzyzewski had warned his players that "you can't take the ball from these guys"—that international guards are too big, poised and experienced to be fleeced. The U.S. nonetheless had 25 steals against Greece. Two nights later, in what was supposed to be their toughest pool play test, the Americans made 28 steals in a 119--82 rout of Spain. To their dominance in the open floor (a 32--0 advantage in fast-break points) the Americans added the first evidence that they appreciate how easy a shot the international three-pointer is, as they sank 12 of 25 attempts. The U.S. coach isn't quite ready to declare his team "fluent in FIBA." But, Krzyzewski says, "we can get by. We can get a good meal and find out where the restroom is."
THEIR TEAMMATES agree that two reserves, Wade and Bosh, have so far stood out, and neither would have topped any pre-Olympics predictions for that honor. After injuries caused him to miss a third of each of the past two NBA seasons with the Miami Heat, Wade wasn't even a certainty to make the U.S. team. "In the middle of May we said, 'You're on the team, whatever,'" says Krzyzewski, "but we just weren't sure where he would be."
Last week no U.S. opponent could be sure where Wade would be either. "My role is to be an attacker at both ends of the court," says Wade, who at week's end led the team in points (17.8 per game) and steals (2.8), with the latter usually leading to the former. During the second quarter against Greece, the Redeem Team's finest 10 minutes of the Games so far, Wade chased down a loose ball and, while falling out of bounds, sent an alley-oop to Kobe Bryant for a flush. Wade has competed with the enthusiasm of someone grateful to be healthy again. "He's playing off the charts for us, coming off the bench, giving us energy," says guard Jason Kidd. "He looks like a rookie out there."
Along with Dwight Howard and Carlos Boozer, the 6'10" Bosh is one of the team's three post players, a position nitpickers had identified as a weak spot. Although he's shooting 15 for 18 and leading the team in rebounding, stats hardly reflect why teammates rhapsodized about him last week. "He's doing a great job of being up the court, talking, communicating, getting back to the basket, protecting the paint, rebounding, keeping balls alive, getting steals," says forward Tayshaun Prince, in a kind of stream-of-consciousness that approximates the spectacle of Bosh's hyperkinetic presence. It's only a slight simplification to call Bosh the player whose role on the team was to beat Greece. "He's so long, and he has perimeter skills," says Krzyzewski. "Ball-screen defense is one of the reasons he was chosen."
A Chinese saying holds that a man is not brave until he has been to the Great Wall. Last week the Chinese newspaper Titan Sports took note of Bosh's visit there under a headline that read, AFTER SCALING THE GREAT WALL, BOSH IS AN EVEN BRAVER MAN.
If that visit accounts for Bosh's increasingly intrepid play, Krzyzewski might have to reconsider: Perhaps the Wall has some tactical utility after all.
Get reports from Alexander Wolff on the U.S.'s quest for gold in men's and women's basketball, at SI.com/Olympics.