Why the U.S. won: Talent. It sounds like over-simplifying, but the fact of the matter is that Team USA’s worst player was better than Croatia’s best player. More specifically, the U.S. was hitting their shots (55% FG, 40% 3PA), protecting the ball (7 turnovers), and taking advantage of their depth. Reserve Eric Gordon led the U.S. in scoring with 16 points, and backup Kevin Love had a team-high 10 rebounds.
Why Croatia lost: They gave up the big run. At the end of the first quarter it was still a two-point game, but five minutes into the second quarter, Croatia found themselves down by 15 and never got back into it. Although Ante Tomic helped Croatia win the rebounding battle, 41-39, they were otherwise beat up and left in the dust. Team USA had a 19-2 edge in transition points, and when Gordon, Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose went to the rack, they blasted through the Croatian defense like NFL running backs.
Key numbers: Eric Gordon (16 pts, 4 threes); Kevin Durant (14 pts, 8 rebs); Chauncey Billups (12 pts); Kevin Love (10 rebs); Bojan Bogdanovic (17 pts, 5 threes); Marko Popovic (16 pts); Rebounds (Croatia 41, USA 39); Free-throw shooting (USA 12-22, Croatia 8-19).