Team USA Holds On After a Furious Comeback

Kyrie Irving; Credit - Tom Pennington of Getty Images

Kyrie Irving; Credit – Tom Pennington of Getty Images

By Jake Katz,

After starting the Olympics with two dominant victories the United States Basketball team was given a reality check in their last match against Australia.  They won, but only after a back and forth physical battle that made Team USA realize that a gold medal will be no cakewalk.  They specifically struggled against Australia’s physicality and other teams in the tournament surely would use this game as a blueprint on how to play the Americans.  Tonight they faced another tough opponent in team Serbia.  With a mix of some current NBA talent, former NBA talent and European talent the Serbians have one of the stronger teams in the Olympics. 

The Americans came out on fire, clearly wanting to get off to a strong start after they started slow last game.  They got out to an early 9-0 lead and eventually expanded that to a 23-5 lead and looked as if they were going to cruise through this game.  Slowly the Serbians began to push back.  They lowered the score to 27-15 after the first quarter and began chipping away even more in the second.  The United States did a good job of getting to the foul line all night, but still was having a hard time pulling away.  The United States had balanced scoring from all areas led by Kyrie Irving’s 15 points.  Deandre Jordan had a few notable highlights alley-oops as he often does. After two the United States were up 50-41.

The third quarter was back and forth the whole way.  First the United States pushed the lead up to 11 and then the Serbians pushed back to cut it to 5.  If there was one thing that was evident during this game it was the play of Nicola Jokic.  Third in voting for rookie of the year Jokic was fantastic as he showed an array of post moves, jump shots and terrific passing that will give him a very bright future in the NBA.  After a seesaw third quarter the score was 72-62 United States.  A decent lead, but certainly not comfortable.

The fourth quarter was easily the best of the game and the Serbians did everything they possibly could to try and pull off the upset.  Every time the Americans made a big shot, Serbia answered right back and began getting closer and closer.  As stated before Nikola Jokic was a monster in this quarter, doing everything for the Serbians.  Before you knew it, Serbia was within five points from the Americans and yet again the Americans needed to lock down and close it out.  Serbia eventually got it to 94-91 with the ball in the remaining seconds and a chance to tie it.  They got a great look at a three but it hit the front rim and the game was over.

This was an interesting game and another good test for the Americans.  They started out strong but could not keep that energy and momentum going and credit needs to be given to the Serbians for fighting back.  USA remains undefeated but their path continues to get tougher with other teams giving it their all to try and knock off the Americans.  Coach K is definitely going to have to watch the film of these past two games and formulate some new game plans and be better prepared to match the European style of play.  Team USA’s next matchup is against France a team who has a lot of NBA talent.  After these past two games, team USA needs to be ready for everything France has and should be attacking from the beginning in hopes of putting them away early.

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