1. Team USA underestimated Tunisia. Apparently, Team USA thought it would coast to a 55-point win just because British oddsmakers believed that would happen. But its defensive effort and shooting accuracy went unchecked at baggage claim. So as the game opened, Team USA missed shots, didn’t rotate on defense or take Tunisia’s outside shooting seriously.
The result: Tunisia took the lead four times en route to a 15-12 advantage in the first quarter, which included Makram Ben Romdhane going unguarded for a coast-to-coast dunk as part of his team-high 22 points. Of course, Tunisia wasn’t going to win this game. But that’s not the point.
Team USA started off slowly for the second consecutive game. It rushed outside shots en route to eight consecutive missed three-pointers instead of remaining patient with ball movement. Its sagging defense contributed to Tunisia hitting attempts from three-point range. The Americans’ energy level suggested they could hardly wait until the gold-medal game.
2. Team USA’s bench got them out of a jam. U.S. Coach Mike Krzyzewski sent a powerful message by emptying his entire bench with 2:39 left in the first quarter. He clearly saw enough of Team USA’s lackluster play from starters Chris Paul, Bryant, Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Tyson Chandler. But with Team USA boasting so much depth, it didn’t matter.
The U.S. went on a 14-0 run with Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams, Andre Iguodala, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Love, thanks to a display of hustle that was largely absent among the starters. It didn’t stop there. The starters remained on the bench as Team USA opened the second half with a 46-33 lead. The lead continued to widen during a 20-3 run. Anthony and Love each scored 16 points. Westbrook and Williams marched out in the open court. And Iguodala provided plenty of put-backs and hustle plays. This game could give the starters a good lessen to take things seriously for the rest of the tournament.
3. Love had a minor scare with his knee. After going in for a left-handed layup, it appeared Love injured his right knee when he landed awkwardly late in the third quarter. Though he immediately sat, it seemed as if the knee injury was minor. NBC Sports’ Craig Sager reported he only needed to get it iced. Love stood up with lots of emotion after one of Iguodala’s put-backs. Love also came in later in the fourth quarter. This likely won’t be a long-term concern.
4. Team USA had a few highlight reel dunks. The top nomination goes to James throwing down a right-handed dunk in the second quarter off of Durant’s feed. James took off from the middle of the key, showed his power and vertical leap and had to make Mohamed Hadidane wonder why he’d bother contesting the shot. But there were some other good ones, too. Iguodala threw down a left-handed dunk off a tip in late in the third quarter. And Anthony Davis scored 12 points mostly off of lob passes.
5. Bryant was a nonfactor. There’s really nothing notable regarding Bryant’s four points on two-of-five shooting, one rebound and one turnover in nine minutes. He opened the game missing two wide-open three-pointers early in the shot clock. Bryant needlessly made an extra pass to James that caused a turnover instead of taking an open shot. And he committed three early fouls, earning him plenty of time on the bench. But that didn’t sour one Tunisian player from asking Bryant for his autograph after the game. The Lakers’ star graciously gave him one.
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