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Brazil’s basketball team proved to be a challenging opponent for the U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team on their way to the London Olympics. With the 6-11 trio of players Nene, Splitter, and Varejao, the USA had a challenging defensive test to rise as well.
The USA’s speed and defensive pressure were enough, however, to lead them to a 80-69 victory over the Brazilians. The Brazilian team status as contender for the gold medal caused U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski to state that the U.S. won’t face many opponents tougher than Brazil, stating that “Brazil has a great chance to be in contention for a gold medal”.
Brazilian players Nene, Splitter, and Varejao proved to cause the U.S. team the most threat as each contributed significantly to the score board. The trio Nene, Splitter, and Varejao led Brazil to outrebound the U.S. team 38-30 with six rebounds from Nene, six rebounds from Splitter and 13 rebounds from Varejo. Only one U.S. player had at least six rebounds — forward Lebron who also led the USA with 30 points on 11-for-20 shooting.
“That rotation of three bigs is huge,” coach Krzyzewski said. “They’re tough to defend. … I thought we held our own against them.”
The major concern for the USA team heading into the London Olympics is its lack of size. Tyson Chandler is the only true center on the roster, and the Americans will have to rely on forwards James, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Love and guard-forward Andre Iguodala to guard bigger players. James and Anthony, both 6-8, tend to play bigger because of strength and bulk, but it still will be challenging for them. Guard Kobe Bryant said the USA was so concerned with Brazil’s inside game, that it hurt its perimeter defense.
“There were certain times we didn’t do a good job on the back side,” he said.
“They’d kick it into the post and when they skipped the ball, our rotations were a little late and gave up a lot of open shots.”
Although the USA trailed 27-17 after the first quarter, with the help of James the USA held Brazil to a five-point second quarter. James, coach Krzyzewski reasons, represents one of the team’s best players.
“His will to win was the most inspiring thing that we had on our team,” Krzyzewski said. “It was a very competitive game by our best player.”
Krzyzewski understands, however, that a player’s offense suffers when he’s expending lots of energy on defense, especially when the U.S. team worked incredibly hard to defend the giant trio of Nene, Splitter, and Varejao. This is where James helps.
“The best thing about tonight was our defense,” James said. “It’s so hard at times when you’re not scoring the ball the way you know you can, and you allow the defense to go down the drain.”
After the game, the team traveled to England. They will play an exhibition game against Great Britain on Thursday, and will then head to Barcelona for six days where they will train and play exhibition games against Argentina and Spain.