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On Tuesday morning, the Olympic basketball semi-finals were set in Tokyo. Australia overcame a first quarter deficit to overwhelm Argentina by 38 points. Even though Ricky Rubio set a Spanish Olympic record in points (38), it wasn’t enough as Kevin Durant scored 27 points and the United States advanced by the score of 95-81. So, let’s take a look at the matchup between Australia and the United States:
United States vs. Australia
Both teams should be familiar with one another as they played in Las Vegas in their tune-up games before their trips to Tokyo. On July 13th, led by Patty Mills and some outstanding defense, Australia held the USA without a field goal over the final 4:34 and Mills scored 10 of his 22 points in the final quarter as Australia beat the United States by eight. The difference between that game and the one coming up is that the United States was missing three players due to their participation in the NBA Finals.
With the additions of Milwaukee Bucks Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday and Phoenix Sun Devin Booker, the United States has looked more comfortable since their opening game loss to France. In their victory in the quarterfinals against Spain, Holiday provided 12 points and five assists and Booker knocked down three three-pointers. But in the upcoming game against Australia, the United States will need both Holiday’s and Middleton’s defensive skill to slow down Mills. Scoring points on the offensive end shouldn’t be a problem, as the United States is the second highest scoring team in the tournament. They have multiple players who can score on a regular basis and had six score nine or more points on Monday.
Australia enters the game still undefeated and has played only one game when they haven’t won by 10 or more points. Their strength is their continuity and familiarity with each other on both sides of the ball. Joe Ingles, Nick Kay and Jock Landale have made sure that Mills doesn’t have to carry the load alone. They are very efficient as a team shooting the basketball, and they play just as effectively on defense. Philadelphia 76ers’ forward Matisse Thybulle leads the Olympics, averaging 3.3 steals per game.
In Thursday’s semi-final game, the United States needs to get out and run with the athletes they have on their roster. If they can get into an up and down game, Australia does not have the athletes to keep up with them for forty minutes. The U.S. needs to create shots and looks in the paint to force Australia to pack the paint and allow them to get open looks from beyond the arc.
Australia needs to slow the game down and find the open man to beat the United States. One of the things they did successfully in their win in Las Vegas was moving the ball around and getting open shots. Also, moving Thybulle around on defense to guard Team USA’s best offensive player will be huge because he has turned into a defense stopper with his length, athleticism and intelligence on the court.
Prediction: Australia has a familiarity with how team USA plays because there are so many NBA players on both sides. Even though both teams played in Las Vegas three weeks ago, this USA team is different at this current point in the tournament. Expect USA head coach Gregg Popovich to make enough adjustments on Patty Mills and Durant will be too much down the stretch. USA advances 94-90