THE SEOUL GAMES / DAY 8 : Men’s Basketball : Hawkins May Miss Rest of Games; U.S. Streaks Past Egypt, 102-35
David slew Goliath and Chaminade smote Virginia, so could little Egypt upset the United States?
Not in this lifetime.
The boys from the banks of the Nile came into Saturday’s game having lost all their others by an average of 41 points, and the United States increased that even more. The United States used 8 players and defeated the Egyptians, 102-35, storming into the medal round of the men’s basketball competition.
It was the worst Olympic beating the United States had administered since 1956, when opponents were protesting Bill Russell’s new “stuff shot,” and it hammered Thailand, 101-29.
But unlike Friday’s rout of China, U.S. Coach John Thompson dropped his full-court pressure defense, fearing a repeat of that second half when the Americans, nursing a 40-point lead, lost Hersey Hawkins and Willie Anderson to injury, joining J.R. Reid and Stacey Augmon, who haven’t played for two games.
Only Hawkins’ strained right knee is serious, but it’s serious enough.
“I don’t think Hersey is going to play any more,” Thompson said.
“I think the decision was made with his future in mind. . . . You don’t want it to turn into something.”
Hawkins, a lottery pick of the Philadelphia 76ers, ran into Jeff Grayer late in Friday’s game, was examined Friday night by a USOC doctor and informed that he was done.
“They told me,” Hawkins said. “I’m glad he (Thompson) took the responsibility. I don’t want to go out and hurt myself any more.”
Play starts in the round of eight Monday, with the United States facing Puerto Rico. Like the National Basketball Assn. season, this competition has played its round-robin to eliminate Egypt, China, South Korea and the Central African Republic and send everyone else to the playoffs.
Can anyone beat the United States?
If it ever seemed likely--it didn’t--it seems less so now.
Here’s how the quarterfinalists shape up:
United States vs Puerto Rico--The U.S. defensive pressure is too much for the European teams, even if Canada’s deliberate game bothered the Americans, and Brazil’s outside shooters acquitted themselves in the Pan American rematch before wearing out. But if there’s one player the United States will miss, it’s Hawkins, its top 3-point shooter. He was 5 for 7, the rest of the team is 8 for 20, and if foreign coaches start playing a zone defense, someone else will have to step up.
Puerto Rico gave the United States a run in the famous Butch Lee game in ’76, but despite its collection of U.S. collegians--Jose Ortiz, Ramon Ramos, Jerome Mincey, Ramon Rivas--it has been mostly awful. Puerto Rico beat only South Korea and the Central African Republic, by 5 and 4 points, respectively, and missed its last 7 free throws and gagged on its chance to upset the Soviet Union.
Yugoslavia vs. Canada--The Yugoslavs are huge and talented. They have three victories and a blown-lead loss in their meetings with the Soviets this summer, but like most teams here, they are very inconsistent and show an incredible range of performance. According to the American maxim, the U.S. team starts everything at the defensive end, on the theory that shooting comes and goes, but hard work and defense will carry you every night and make you consistent. The Yugoslavs play no defense and have to out-talent everyone. They out-talented tiny South Korea, 104-92, in a tight game.
Canada played the United States tough but had to get a late 3-pointer Saturday to beat China. Coach Jack Donohue knows how to play a superior U.S. team--slow it down, out-point it from 3-point land--but doesn’t do as well against others.
Soviet Union vs. Brazil--The Soviets have looked terrible. Arvydas Sabonis is as out of shape as a man who has been off 18 months figures to be. Forward Alexander Volkov, the Atlanta Hawks’ No. 2 pick, has been a minor factor, and who knows what is going through Coach Alexander Gomelsky’s head? He plays Sabonis in routs, rests him through tight games and appears incapable of adjusting to anything that happens during games. Only guard Sharunas Marchulenis is living up to his press clippings. When the Soviets were using a twin-mountain lineup with Sabonis and 7-foot 2-inch, 300-pound Vladimir Tkachenko, they could look bored and still rout everyone. Now Tkachenko is hurt and now they just look bored.
Brazil can shoot, but that’s about all. It got flattened by Spain Saturday.
Spain vs. Australia--Spain is well-drilled, but overmatched by the Americans, Soviets and Yugoslavs. The Aussies fight hard but are overmatched by everyone in the medal round.