LeBron James Leads USA Over France in Group Play
The United States of America played its first game in group play at the 2012 Olympics, and its first opponent was an NBA-filled France team. The French are led by San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker, and so far he has done a great job getting his troops together.
Team USA went 5-0 in exhibition games, but those matches had no effect on the Summer Games. Team USA wants nothing but the Gold Medal in these Olympics, and today marked the start of its road to a repeat.
Team USA opened the game very well and it was Kevin Durant who led the team to a fast start. Durant is one of the most athletic players in the world and he used that skill in order to take advantage of France. In addition, LeBron James made it a priority to push the ball up the court and get into the fast-break.
Still, even though Team USA made most of the highlight reel plays, France stayed in the game. The French have a very talented team and they matched up well against the Americans. Tony Parker did most of his damage in the paint and he did a great job of getting to the free-throw line.
Once most of team USA’s starters went out, the offense became stagnant and began to struggle. The players were settling with the outside jumper and they were getting impatient on the offensive end. The Americans have a tendency to get impatient on the court at times and they often throw up bad jumpers. The energy seemed to have been sucked out of the game and as a result, USA struggled to execute in the half court game.
Opponents aim to get Team USA addicted to the three-point shot and that allows them to get back into the game. After the first of four 10-minute quarters, USA led France by just one, 22-21. Durant led the way with seven points, while Kobe Bryant had two points thanks to two free throws.
The coaching staff reinserted Durant and Bryant into the lineup, hoping to regain the momentum and the team’s confidence. Bryant did not have a very fast start in the first quarter, but he played well to begin the second period. Bryant has a quick five points which created some separation from the French. The other USA players fed off Bryant’s hot shooting and the team went up 30-21 with 7:46 to play.
USA got the game back under its control and it seemed as though the Americans would blow open their lead. However, just like in the first quarter, the French responded to USA’s run. France pounded the ball inside and understood that slowing the tempo of the game was the key to success. At the 5:32 mark of the period, USA was holding onto a 33-27 lead.
To make matters worse for the Americans, they were in foul trouble and it helped France’s cause. No one was criticizing Team USA for being aggressive, but that style of play got them into foul trouble, which allowed the French to get easy points.
However, Team USA got back to its game in the latter half of the period. Unlike in most parts of the quarter, the Americans got into the open court which allowed them to score on the fast-break. The lineup featuring James, Durant and Kevin Love worked very well together and did a great job increasing of the lead. Love stretched the floor well with his three-point shooting, while James continued to attack the paint.
After two quarters, Team USA was up 16, 52-36. Durant led all scorers with 15 points and Kobe and Love put in seven points each for the USA.
In the third quarter it was Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant who led the early surge. Those two stars continued to stay hot from the three-point arc and that allowed Team USA to go up 58-38 with 8:16 to play in the quarter.
There was a different sense of urgency for Team USA and it was clear that they wanted to put away the French as soon as possible. When the game adopted a faster tempo, the Americans took advantage with their size and speed. Team USA beats most opponents with its energy and the French had trouble staying with the explosive Americans. With 6:05 to play in the quarter, Team USA held a 60-41 lead.
France had problems getting its offense going and the Americans did a great job on the defensive end. When the French did get an open look, they could not knock it down and that completely ruined any chance of a comeback. The scouting report on France is that they have very little perimeter shooters, and that weakness showed during the third quarter.
In the final three minutes of the period, Team USA maintained a double-digit lead and did not allow France to gain any confidence. The players on the court continued to dominate the opposition and that allowed Team USA to take a 78-51 lead heading to the fourth quarter.
LeBron James and Kobe Bryant began the fourth quarter on the bench, but with a glance at the scoreboard, it appeared as though they would remain there for the remainder of the game. Still, even though the two biggest stars were off the court, Team USA still had the more talented lineup.
Team USA went with a small rotation in the fourth quarter, with Kevin Durant at the four and Kevin Love at the five. That allowed the Americans to once again use their speed to put away France. Everyone on the court had the ability to run in the open court and as a result, USA went up 82-55 with 7:14 to play in the game.
In the final portion of the fourth quarter, the coaching staff brought out all but one of the starters and inserted the reserves. The outcome of the game was decided and it was a great chance for the young players to gain some Olympic experience. Rookie Anthony Davis got playing time for the United States, and he gave Team USA some great defense and easy buckets.
In Team USA’s first game of group play in the 2012 London Olympics, they defeated the French team, 98-71.
Kevin Durant led the game in scoring with 22 points, Bryant put in 10 and LeBron James had nine points, eight assists and five rebounds.