Since the 2004 debacle in Athens, Greece, the United States men’s basketball team has looked better than the Monstars in Space Jam.
However, it looks as if their 12-year run of invincibility in Olympic play will come to an end, based on recent history, and the many problems this team is facing.
Recent history shows that the knockout stage is far more difficult than the group stage because the competition is left with the eight best teams. The pressure mounts, and each time a game ends, a nation is going home while the other continues on its quest for gold.
In 2008, the USA won group stage games by an average of 32.2 points, and in 2012, they won by an average of 38.2. However, once the knockout stage began, the US average margin of victory dropped to 20.7 in 2008, and 22 in 2012.
So, if the Redeem Team and the “second” Dream Team had this much trouble once the competition got stiffer, we can only imagine what will happen with this bunch.
The 2016 squad is obviously loaded with talent, but they, still, have not gel together. They look more like 12 supremely talented players waiting for their turn to shine on the wooden floor, as oppose to one dominant team stomping on everyone on their quest to Olympic supremacy.
In tight games, the United States don’t have a point guard who can deliver with smart play. Kyrie Irving is a great player, but he tends to be a bit reckless in close contests while Kyle Lowry has not shown yet, he can consistently be a clutch performer on both ends of the floor.
Kevin Durant is facing the same criticism he faced in recent years with the Oklahoma City Thunder, which is that he tends to shy away from his responsibility as the clear cut best player on the team. Carmelo Anthony is the leader, but at this stage in their careers, this is Kevin Durant’s team, and he needs to fulfill his role as the man in command.
Klay Thompson struggled, mightily, in the first four games, shooting an abysmal 4 for 26, but against France, he made it rain. Thompson poured in 30 points, including seven threes to guide the United States to a 100-97 win. The Splash Brother has redeemed himself, a little bit, but how long will it last? If he has another poor outing, it will be time for Coach Krzyzewski to bench him in favor of Jimmy Butler.
Another problem facing the United States’ men’s team is their poor defense. Carmelo Anthony, DeMarcus Cousins, and Kyrie Irving are known for their offensive brilliance, and their lack of defense, and it is beginning to show.
The 2008, and 2012 Olympic teams were stacked with great defenders, which hid one-way players like Carmelo Anthony. When you can have Chris Paul, LeBron James, and Dwight Howard together on the court, it will be difficult to score for anybody.
Coach Krzyzewski has some defensive specialists on the squad such as Paul George, Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green, and DeAndre Jordan. But, they have not played a lot since the beginning of the tournament. It is difficult to imagine Coach Krzyzewski changing his philosophy on the fly, but it might be his best option.
The big men are having a lot of difficulty making their presence felt on these Games. DeAdre Jordan, still, can’t shoot free throws to save his life, DeMarcus Cousins is having a hard time adjusting to international referees, and playing style, therefore Draymond Green is Coach Krzyzewski’s last option, but thus far, he has not played much.
Could Coach Krzyzewski’s change his starting five for a more defensive minded team, and, even, shake up his shooters? Kyle Lowry, Jimmy Butler, Paul George, Kevin Durant, and Draymond Green is, still, an impressive starting five. But, at this point in the tournament, the majority of these players have not played a lot of minutes.
The United States are still the team to beat, and should be the favorites to win it all. But, for the first time in over a decade, the United States are not otherworldly. A sign that proves talent is not sufficient to win anymore.
Canada earns silver at 2019 FIBA U16 Americas Championships
Canada’s U16 Men’s national team captured a third straight silver medal at the 2019 FIBA Americas championships falling 94-77 to the United States of America in the Gold medal game in Belem, Brazil.
The highly anticipated bout featuring the two top U16 FIBA-ranked teams in the world didn’t disappoint — showcasing upwards of a combined 10 potential NBA draftees.
Team Canada kept the game tight for the first 10 minutes and took their only lead of the game at 17-15 with 2:02 in to play, before a late triple gave the USA a 18-17 lead to close the quarter.
The USA took the game to the Canadians in the second-quarter, outscoring Canada 27-15 for a 45-32 half-time lead.
Caleb Houstan (Mississauga, Ont.) scored 25 points and three rebounds and finished as the championship’s second leading scorer with 22.8 points per game. Houstan, a silky smooth forward had a tournament high 29 points to become Canada’s top scorer in U16 FIBA Americas competition — breaking Kevin Pangos 28 point record from 2009.
Canada showed some bark in the third-quarter with solid defensive stretches and back-to-back dunks, cutting the lead to single digits on multiple occasions and closing in at 57-51 of the Americans with 4:34 to play.
The Americans rallied with a 13-6 run to end third-quarter for a comfortable 72-57 lead and put it in cruise control in the fourth-quarter — stretching the lead to a game-high 21 points.
Despite the loss, the final 17-point deficit ties the lowest spread between the two squads in five championship or semi-finals games at the FIBA Americas tournament.
Team Canada has now lost all five games against the USA at the FIBA U16 Americas championships — dropping three-straight gold medal games — 111-60 in 2017 and 77-60 in 2015 and two semi-finals encounters, 113-70 in 2011 and 126-78 in 2009.
Ryan Nembhard (Aurora, Ont) wrapped the tournament with another outstanding effort with 21 points, 9 assists and 2 rebounds. Nembhard led the tournament with a total of 54 assists, good for 9 per game, and was Canada’s second leading scorer at 14.3 points per game.
Enoch Boakye (Brampton, Ont) 12 points and 13 rebounds concluded the tournament with his third straight game in double-figures rebounding and was the third top rebounder in the competition at 10.8 per game. Boakye had of two of the tournaments top 10 rebounding performances with 17 against Mexico and 16 against Dominican Republic.
Both Houstan and Ryan Nembhard were named to the tournaments all-star team alongside Dominican Republic’s Jean Montero — including the USA’s Jalen Durne and tournament MVP Christopher Livingston.
Canada finished the tournament 5-1 with group B victories over Uruguay 101-63, Brazil 90-67, Puerto Rico 96-76 and wins over Mexico 95-78 and 97-81 over the Dominican Republic in the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively.
The U16 Canadian squad has reached the podium five times since the inaugural, bi-annual American zone tournament kicked-off 10 years ago in 2009 — earning three silver and two bronze medals. Canada lost a heart-breaking 65-64 semi-finals loss to Argentina in 2013.
Canada has qualified for the 2020 U17 FIBA World Championships where they will look to improve from their 2018 4th-place finish.
Shaedon Sharpe posterizes Dominican defender at U16 FIBA Americas
Canadian 16-year old high-flyer Shaedon Sharpe took off and posterized a Dominican Republic defender at the 2019 FIBA U16 Americas championship in Brazil.
With 35 seconds to play the first-half Sharpe shook off a defender with a sweet pump fake and then took-off baseline and dropped a Jordanesque poster all-over the Dominican defender.
Canada broken a tightly contested semi-finals contest to beat the Dominican Republic 97-81 to reach the finals of the 2016 FIBA U16 Americas championships.
Sharpe finished with 17 points , four rebounds and three assists, shooting 8-for-10 from the field.
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