You know you may have a basketball addiction problem when you wake up at 5:45 in the morning in a cold sweat, ready to watch some FIBA World Cup group play. I couldn’t wait to see the United States National Team take on Greece and one Mr. Giannis Antetokounmpo. I thought the Greek Freak could conjure up some magic but, alas, the US easily took care of Greece, winning 69–53 in a game that was never very competitive.
I was hoping Giannis would go full Beard-mode, and take at least 50% of his team’s shots. He got out of the gate strong with a couple of nice dunks, but was consistently double-teamed, and despite the open looks he created for his teammates, no one on Greece was making shots. Guys where bricking shots off side of the backboard. There were points in the game where no one looked like they wanted to take a shot. Greece shot 31% from the field and were 7-for-27 from deep.
If there is one thing Giannis could add to his already MVP calibur game to take it to another level it would be adding a step-back jumper a la Dirk. I don’t expect him to ever hit threes at a crazy high percentage, but just being able to score effectively at the high post would make Antetokounmpo practically unguardable. That’s a lot to ask for from a player who is as dominant down on the black as anyone we’ve seen post prime-era Shaq, but the FIBA rules really highlights how cramming the lane with players can slow down Antetokounmpo’s game.
It was apparently 90+ degrees in Shanghai at the time of the game, and US Team Head Coach Greg Popovich was happy to play most of his bench and just play gritty defense against Greece. When the game got out of hand in the fourth quarter Greece’s head coach decided to keep Giannis on the bench, and most of the excitement was sucked out of the arena. The blog boys were none to happy it either:
While the US also had a rough day shooting (36% FG), they were able to get enough out Kemba Walker (15 pts) and Donovan Mitchel (10 pts) to keep Greece on their back foot.
If there is a player who I can see getting a nice bump out of this tournament from Team USA it’s Walker, who is clearly the leader of this squad. Kemba is making the jump from relative basketball obscurity in Charlotte to joining one of the league’s premier teams in Boston this season, and I think getting these reps as the alpha dog for the US will make that transition a little smoother. It’s also can’t be a bad thing to get to be coached by Pop for a couple months in the offseason.
This is usually the point of summer where I would pay $10 a month to watch live streams of NBA players playing pickup games in LA. So it’s nice having events like the FIBA World Cup around. I like having a morning routine that includes coffee and hoops. Tomorrow morning there is going to be an especially compelling matchup as Serbia, who has been beating teams by an average of 40 points, is going up against Spain, who are always competitive with their front-court of the Gasol bros. These games may not give the average basketball fan a proper hoops fix, but for the crazies like me it’s just enough of a dose to keep withdrawals at bay.