I am American. I love my country and am as fiercely proud as anyone you’ll ever meet.
I am not sure if you’re aware, but I’ve also started this little blog that happens to follow an international theme with a particular emphasis on Europe.
And we’ve arrived at our quintessential dilemma. Who to root for? I’ve been asked several times now and the answer is a simple “USA.” Of course. But it’s not quite so simple. If I were writing the script it would go like this: USA falls into early hole as Croatia starts hot. USA forces some turnovers and gets into some sort of flow offensively and retakes the lead. Then a little seesaw action until the latter moments of the second, where Croatia pulls ahead into the break.
Coach K grills the red, white and blue in the locker room, using the tangibility of a deficit as his oint of emphasis. Both teams come out of the lockers, play much cleaner basketball than in the first half and Team USA holds off a late charge to win by 6 or 8.
Problem solved. America wins, improves. Craotia loses, but learns they can play with anyone. But I’m not the author. That duty is left to the 24 men in uniform. And they’re moments away from picking up their pens.
-Chauncey puts us on the board with a pair of free throws, clearly not the general pleasure of the Croatian fans directly behind me.
-And there it is. Another contribution from Chauncey, this time three from the key.
-Andre Iguodala steals it, dishes to Derrick Rose who puts it in after jumping as high as he possibly can on a routine lay-up. It has become his trademark among people who care far too much about detail.
-Is there a European with a release more quick and deadly than Bojan Bogdanovic? There will come a time in his career where he can choose to be an All-Euroleague caliber guy or a role player on a solid NBA team.
-Andre Iguodala still can’t seem to get much going on offense since leaving the states. Looked uncomfortable in the exhibitions and then drives, slips, throws it away here with 6:00 to go in the first quarter.
-A Kevin Durant jumper makes it 13-9. Speaking of quick and deadly releases…
-Eric Gordon wets up a jumper on one end, forgets to box out Roko Ukic on the other. 18-15 USA.
-Does anyone have any idea how hard is for me to root against Marko Tomas right now? Killing me softly.
-Russell Westbrook is the first American to drive into the lane instead of fading to the baseline. The result: contact and a foul versus a forced runner, falling away.
-I sincerely apologize for the delay. I was whisked away by BBC to come on their radio show for a few minutes. The topic: why has this American team been referred to as the B-Team? I answered that it’s the fault of the American public. If we won’t even watch our own guys than why should the rest of the world care? Any self-respecting USA hoops fan would be crazy not to realize this team’s potential, both on an individual level and as a collective unit. We don’t need Kobe and LeBron hogging the attention intentionally or inadvertently; we’re better off with an understated superstar like Kevin Durant leading the way, if you ask me. The results might not be quite as impressive, but the experience will be so much more enjoyable for anyone considerate enough to tune in.
-Between BBC and the above diatribe, the second quarter has come to an end. It was 26-38 with a few to go in the quarter. Gordon hit a pair of wing threes, Gay got jealous and hit one himself and added a free throw and all the sudden it was 48-26. That score held strong through the buzzer.
USA: Durant 9 pts (8 rebounds), Derrick Rose 9, Gordon 9, Billups 7. Lamar Odom and Kevin Love 5 rebounds a piece.
Croatia: Ante Tomic 6, (with 5 rebounds), Marko “Mancrush” Tomas 5 (4 rebounds), Marko Banic 4
-Marko Popovic puts one in, Andre Iguodala hits a three and KD nets one to bring the score to 54-31.
-Let me rephrase that: Andre Iguodala finally hits a three. Not what we need him to do but great to see him getting out of his funk. As for his defense, well, that’s never been questioned.
-Croatia tries something different: Ante Tomic on Kevin Durant. First possession ends with a stuff underneath the basket and the move looks brilliant. Next possession, KD takes it in the post, reverse pivot, face-up, crosses over, backs up, Tomic freezes, jumper. Bottom of the net. Herein lies the conundrum that is Kevin Durant.
-Iggy with the tomahawk finish on the alley and then three possessions later Eric Gordon—our best shooter so far between warm-ups and now tonight—nails one from the top. That’s 12 for him and the USA has doubled up on Croatia, 68-34. I must say I was expecting far more out of these Croatians.
-Surprise starter (at least to me) Luka Zoric puts another one in to give him 6 for the contest. Unfortunately that ties him with Ante Tomic for the team high.
-The threes start falling with a bit more frequency for Croatia but it won’t matter too much tonight. How about using this time to try some new things? For both teams, it might not be the worst idea.
-78-48 at the end of three.
-Bogdanovic remembers why he’s out there. Strokes one early in the fourth after connecting late in the third. In my dream world he pulls 6 more before this one is over, hitting every single one. Not impossible. Remember his perfect 6/6 in the Euroleague Top 16? Earned him the weekly MVP trophy.
-Nice to see Danny Granger getting some burn late. He’s hit every open look he’s had. When things get close and we need a shooter without compromising size, he’s an incredibly valuable weapon to have.
-First time I’ve ever heard a colelctive “ooooohh” emerge from a crowd as they watched the flight of an outlet pass. You gotta Love Kevin.
-Westbrook with a Rondo-esque drive to the hoop. Splits the double team, cocks it behind his back before double clutching and laying it right in. Beautiful.
-Westbrook again. This time with the slam. Maybe we should start calling Rondo’s moves ‘Westbrook-esque’.
-Westbrook’s killing it. Alley to Chandler who grabs it at the top of the backboard and hammers it in. Shades of 2007. Now he’s headed to the line after nearly stuffing it all over Ante Tomic after being fouled on the way in.
-Since we’ve struck a theme here, let’s stick with it: Westbrook misses both free throws, grabs his own rebound and puts it in. The missed FT’s were all a facade to support his statistically-driven motives.
-Roko Ukic leaks out on the break but Tyson Chandler chses him down and beats it into the press section. it came within inches of de-noseing the kind lady in front of me and to the right, then bounced up and landed a few seats away from me. Almost knocked over my juice box. And I f***ing love me some juice boxes.
-106-78 is your final and I’m headed to get some quotes. Maybe not though. Trying is what counts, right?
Next up: Iran vs. Brazil