The United States will be taking on Serbia in the FIBA World Cup gold medal game. Although all of the U.S. games have resulted in blowouts they don’t always start that way. After a sluggish first half against Lithuania they finally put them away with a strong 3rd quarter led by James Harden. Here are 3 things I will be looking for during the gold medal game.
1. Ball Movement
Team USA has a lot of great individual players and at times they tend to play like individual players instead of as a team. In their most recent games against Slovenia and Lithuania team USA struggled in the first half because they lacked ball movement. In the game against Slovenia team USA had seven assists in the entire first half. It was a seven point game at half time. In the 3rd team USA outscored Slovenia 37-22 and had six assists in the 3rd quarter alone. At the end of the game team USA had 21 assists and won in a blowout.
It was an eight point game at the half against Lithuania. Team USA only had three assists in the 1st half. In the 3rd quarter team USA outscored Lithuania 33-14. They had six assists in the 3rd quarter and they put the game away. This team needs to move the ball early and often.
2. Fouls Called
The referees were blowing the whistle a lot in the semifinal game against Lithuania. Lithuania took 22 more free throws than the U.S. James Harden, Steph Curry and Kenneth Faried all had two fouls in the first quarter and were forced to sit down. Steph Curry finished the game with four and Anthony Davis fouled out. They were called for 27 personal fouls; the only player for team USA not to be called for a foul was Derrick Rose. When the team is in foul trouble it affects their defensive effort. They are not as aggressive and allowed Lithuania to get some easy baskets. Curry still managed to get 13 points but he has been in foul trouble often in this tournament.
3. James Harden
James Harden has been terrible in the 1st half in the last two games. He has been a combined 0-11 with zero free throw attempts in the last two games against Lithuania and Slovenia. In fact against Slovenia he was 0-8 in the 1st half. He did bounce back in the 3rd quarter in both games. Against Slovenia he scored 12 of his 14 points in the 3rd quarter to lead team USA. In the game against Lithuania he scored 16 points in the 3rd quarter. Team USA has outscored opponents 70-36 in the 3rd quarter in the last two games thanks in large part to James Harden. Harden has to get it going in the 1st half so that team USA can have a commanding lead going into halftime. Instead of waiting until the 3rd quarter to put teams away team USA should go out in the gold medal to prove a point. Get it going early and don’t give Serbia any confidence.