Why Team USA won: Threes. No, really, and Michael Redd wasn’t even involved. Holding a shaky nine-point lead with a few seconds left in the first half, Deron Williams stepped up and drilled a triple at the buzzer to send Australia into the locker room down 12. After the break, Kobe (23 pts) and Carmelo (15 pts) opened the second half with back-to-back triples that stretched the margin to 18. Kobe’s old-fashioned three-pointer (reverse layup plus-one) a few minutes later, followed by another three of his own, capped a 14-0 third-quarter run that effectively ended it.
Why Australia lost: If the Boomers had been able to make a few more layups early on, they might have been in the lead at the end of the first quarter and maybe even at halftime. After that, anything was possible. Instead, blowing easy opportunities left the door (and the lane) open for Team USA to drive right through and grab a double-digit halftime lead. And as we’ve seen all tournament long, the Americans treat the second half of these games like Mariano Rivera treats the 9th inning; they slam the door shut.
Looking ahead: As we write this, Argentina and Greece are preparing to tip-off for the right to face the U.S. in the semis. Greece has proven to be less of a threat than everyone thought going into the Olympics, while Argentina hasn’t looked as strong as expected despite some monster performances from Manu Ginobili and Luis Scola in the opening round.