The US team got off to a slow start before blowing out Slovenia. They head into their semi-final game against Lithuania on Thursday and cannot afford another slow start. These are three things I will be looking for on Thursday.
1. Frontline Play
The two leading scorers for team USA are Anthony Davis (13.7) and Kenneth Faried (13.0). DeMarcus Cousins has come off the bench adding 9 points and 5 rebounds in just under 14 minutes a game. They have been solid for the most part in the tournament. However in the game against Mexico, Faried and Davis both struggled. They were not needed as much because Steph Curry got hot but Davis was 2-9 for four points, 6 rebounds and 4 blocks. Faried had 8 points and 8 rebounds but he did miss four shots, his most missed shots in any game at that point.
Gustavo Ayon, the Mexican big man had a very good game against our frontline. He bullied his way to 25 points and 8 rebounds on 11-19 shooting. He was the only Mexican player in double digits and he outplayed our big men. Lithuania has another physical center in Jonas Valanciunas. He’s coming off back to back double-doubles and the entire frontline will have to slow him down. They need to attack Valanciunas and get him in foul trouble. He does a good job of staying on the floor and he’s shooting 73% from the field and free throw line.
2. Three point shooting
The shooters on the team are finally finding their touch. They hit a tournament high 13 threes against Mexico as Steph Curry and Klay Thompson combined for 35 points and 9 three pointers. Curry was in foul trouble against Slovenia and missed all three of his three point attempts. Klay on the other hand was still feeling it as he came off the bench to score 20 points while shooting 4-8 from downtown. Rudy Gay and James Harden added 2 three pointers apiece as team USA shot 9-19 from beyond the arc against Slovenia. The hot long range shooting needs to continue to have a balance attack against Lithuania.
These are two completely different teams. Lithuania has not reached 90 points in any game in this tournament. Team USA scored less than 90 points just once in this team when they had 86 against Mexico. Team USA has struggled in two games, early in group play against Turkey and recently against Slovenia. Both teams controlled the pace in the game. Team USA wants to speed teams up to force turnovers and get out and run. They need to speed Lithuania up and control the tempo early in the game.